Shakshuka

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This is another Ottolenghi recipe, though I have had Shakshuka before in my local vegetarian cafe. It’s a very simple dish and doesn’t require too many ingredients. Takes about half an hour and perfect when it’s cold outside. I have scaled down to serve one.

Ingredients

1 ripe red bell pepper, chopped into small cubes
2 tablespoons of harissa paste (quite hot – available from most middle eastern groceries),
2 tsp tomato puree,
3 big ripe vine tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp salt,
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 tsp ground cumin,
2 eggs
chopped parsley to serve (optional)
cooking oil

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Directions

Heat your oil in large frying pan. Add the garlic, pepper, tomato puree, harissa, cumin and salt. Fry for 8 minutes on a medium heat, so that the pepper has softened.

Add the tomatoes. Fry for a further 8 minutes.

Next you need to make some ‘hollows’ in the sauce, so that you can poach the eggs in it. You can either make 4 hollows or 2, depending on whether or not you’d prefer to keep your yolks and whites separate. I don’t think it makes much difference – either way you break the eggs and let them fall into their places in the sauce. Cook for a further 8-10 minutes.

When done, add chopped parsley if using.
Serve with yoghurt and/or hummous.

Lovely.

The Best of what I’ve Eaten, Since Last I Posted

Chermoula Aubergine with Quinoa (Lemony or Kisir)

I absolutely love aubergines. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before. Their flesh has an almost potato like texture, which is pleasant since I no longer eat normal potatoes because of the starch and its effect on insulin levels, and they soak up so much flavour. I never seem to gain weight when I eat them, something a friend of mine was discussing with me after I passed on my aubergine bug to him.

Oh before I post it, I must add, Ottolenghi’s directions for roasting aubergines always seem to be written with non-fan ovens in mind. If you have a fan oven, you only need to put the aubergines in at about 180 degrees and for half an hour, rather than the 40 minutes he states, otherwise they’ll end up charred and acrid.

from the Guardian

from the Guardian Newspaper

So I made this meal in the festive season between Christmas and New Year. It is perhaps the most popular dish of increasingly reknowned chef Yotam Ottolengh’s, judging from the ‘buzz’ being created by it online.

Here is the main recipe, which I changed and supplemented to make more suitable for a gluten-free vegan PCOS diet:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/12/chermoula-aubergine-bulgar-recipe-ottolenghi

Served separately, both the aubergine and the bulgar salad from this dish are delicious with the accompanying Greek yoghurt, but all three together are a match made in food heaven. Chermoula is a potent North African spice paste that is ideal for smearing on your favourite vegetables for roasting. Serves four as a main course.

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon skin make at least a night in advance
140ml olive oil, plus extra to finish
Salt
2 medium aubergines
150g quinoa or – choose this lemony quinoa recipe or Ottolenghi’s Kisir substituting the bulgar wheat with quinoa and adding more water than stated
50g sultanas
10g fresh coriander, chopped, plus extra to finish
10g fresh mint, chopped
50g green olives, halved
30g flaked almonds, toasted
3 spring onions, chopped
1½ tbsp lemon juice
120g Greek yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. To make the chermoula, mix together the garlic, cumin, coriander, chilli, paprika, preserved lemon, two-thirds of the olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt.

Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and score the flesh of each half with diagonal, crisscross lines, making sure not to pierce the skin. Spoon the chermoula over each half, spreading it evenly, and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until the aubergines are very soft.

Meanwhile, place the bulgar in a large bowl and cover with 140ml boiling water. Soak the sultanas in 50ml of warm water for 10 minutes, then drain and add to the bulgar, along with the remaining oil. Stir in the herbs, olives, almonds, spring onions, lemon juice and salt, taste and add more salt, if necessary.

Serve the aubergines warm or at room temperature. Place one half-aubergine per portion on a serving plate, spoon bulgar on top, allowing some to fall over the sides, spoon over a little yoghurt, sprinkle with chopped coriander and finish with a dribble of olive oil. – The Guardian Newspaper

What I do is then add the ingredients he adds to the bulgar wheat, to add even more flavour.
So, yes, it’s quite an undertaking, cooking all this in its entirity, however it is very much how I imagine the food of gods must taste.

Back After New Year

Hellooooo. I have not posted anything since Christmas – it might even have been Christmas day itself. No reason why in particular, other than the general excuse of being busy :) And ‘with what’ you might ask…

in which case a run down must include: being asked to write a book review for The Times Literary Supplement. Something I’ve wanted to get into doing for a while now – it happened mostly as a result of me getting a poem published in there last November; boyfriend stuff. Urgh. Sometimes relationships are very VERY stressy; finally *nearly* finishing work on my album; German AS Level; getting together all of my poems from the past year or so, having been awarded funding for some one-to-one tutorials; discovering and cooking excellent recipes I will share elsewhere on the site; going to Warsaw; finally getting back out in the hills and doing some hiking; finally making a regular thing of yoga classes; work (yes, I’ve started doing that again); joining a new band on guitar; and then there was just general laziness/ joyous instances of indolent comfort while reading or streaming films in bed.

My experiences of PCOS has inevitably continued over this time. I’ve had some extremely painful and debilitating periods, which included vomiting a couple of times, such was the pain. I’ve found some ways of alleviating this pain, or so it seems for now. I’ve also found ways of ridding the cyclical breast pain associated with PMS (via evening primrose oil supplements) and have finally changed the sanitary products I use, switching from expensive and uncomfortable tampons and pads, to the more environmentally and biologically friendly Mooncup. I’ve also learned some further diet information: started cooking with various forms of buckwheat, taking vitamin E etc. For Christmas I bought my mum Yotam Ottolenghi and Sammi Tamimi’s latest recipe book, ‘Jerusalem’, and that has got me cooking some exceptional vegan/PCOS-friendly food from the Middle East.

Now I just have to decide where to start, after this blog update… :)

Aubergine Parmagiana

The following is a very easy and cheap recipe to make with the added bonus that it is delicious!  Great gluten-free alternative to lasagne.  I’ve noticed that it also seems quite a good dish if I’m coming down with a cold.

 

Ingredients:

 

2 large aubergines chopped into thin round discs from the bottom up,

olive oil,

tomato and basil sauce, or a few large fresh chopped tomatoes and basil to make into a sauce yourself,

cheddar cheese (grated),

parmasan cheese (grated),

herbs:  ie. thyme, oregano, rosemary

 

Method:

 

After chopping the aubergines, place the discs on an oiled baking or pizza tray.  Brush the surfaces of the aubergine with a little more oil and scatter your choice of herbs on top.  Bake in fan oven at 240 celsius for 10 minutes.

Spread some of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a pyrex baking dish.  Place some of the aubergine discs on top, and then scatter with cheeses.  Continue to layer in this way until you end with the last of the cheeses.  Sprinkle herbs on top.  Bake again for another 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy with brown rice or quinoa, and/or green salad.

 

 

Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery

unicorn outside

South Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery in unlike any supermarket I have found in the UK.   It seems completely foreign.

It is perhaps telling that it is situated in Chorlton, one of the most affluent areas of Manchester, where rock stars (most of them former rock stars, for the sake of accuracy) and footballers live alongside rich hippies and aspiring poets.  There’s probably a few employees of the BBC there, judging from the lack of regional accents. Chorlton essentially being an imported home-county, which I observe because it doesn’t really feel Mancunian at all.  And it has a village green.

Class may have something to do with the rudeness of some of the people you find in Unicorn, knocking you over, walking into you oblivious of anything but their NEED, their real dire need, to procure some obscure organic nut butter.  Jollying you along in the queue for the checkout in the hope that you, with your far more inconsequential purposes, will just hurry up and leave.  The atmosphere is actually not all that bad in the place, which is very bright, warm and colourful – it’s just noticeable that there’s usually one or two pushy mothers in there who only care about themselves.

Speaking of class, anyone who makes the switch from non-organic food shopping soon realises that money is a big factor in the organic food industry… which makes some people suspicious of whether or not the industry is just a massive scam.  It is certainly very easy to spend money in the Unicorn. However, if you maintain a strict relationship with your budget, it is also possible to do almost a week’s shopping there for about £20.

Two days ago I did my Christmas food shop there, and bought a massive bag of kale for 86p.  Some of the foods also have a non-organic variant, for example the dates, which enables you to buy big bags of pitted Iranian dates for 83p.  I don’t know of anywhere you can get dates that cheap (if you’ll excuse the unintended pun).  The vine tomatoes I bought, though perhaps not as ripe as they could have been, had a strong fragrance, making them a refreshing change from what you find in Tesco.  I was a little disappointed to find the sprout stalks not to the same excellent standard they were last year -but then organic shopping is often about being there at the right time, and I think I got there in between stock replenishments, as far as the sprouts were concerned.

The range of gluten-free supplies is fantastic, (though these are the £ burners) and the deli usually has very nice soups and cakes.  Gluten-free and diabetic friendly pies, burgers, sausages (all vegan/veggie), pastas, noodles… and I should mention the quinoa is the tastiest I’ve bought.  Popular health brands like Dragonfly, Happy Kitchen, Meridian, Clive’s and Laura’s Idea are all to be found in the Unicorn.  Going there has become something of an occasion.

Cool Chile Corn Tortilla

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I bought these today from Unicorn Greengrocery in Chorlton.  And I can safely say they are fantastic.  Nice and soft but not too flimsy and doesn’t taste like cardboard, unlike some of the supermarket gluten-free tortillas.

Simply put one in a warm pan and fry for a short while.

I had mine with the Laura’s Idea Bean Feast.  All in all it was a far better experience than my recent visit to Barburrito…. and far cheaper!  The only thing missing was salsa and sour cream.

They can be bought online from here:  http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/24524/cool-chile-corn-tortilla-gluten-free-13pcs

Blog

I thought I’d do a proper blog post thing, as I’ve yet to do one since starting this website.  Wondering how to approach getting it rolling, I decided I would use it to try to provide the kind of advice I could have done with when I first learned I had poly-cystic ovaries.

The first thing I could have done with knowing was simply that it’s actually not the most hopeless diagnosis in the world.  While I paid to download the ‘Ovarian Cyst Miracle’ PDFs, and while these were certainly useful in helping me to take good steps towards controlling the symptoms, it should be known that, actually, there is no miracle involved in solving PCOS…  I think in most cases, slight weight-loss is all that is needed to get periods regular.  Perhaps the only miracle I’ve experienced is the simplicity of the symptom-relief: cutting gluten intake, cutting refined sugars, switching to brown rice instead of white, cutting out caffeine, drinking more water, eating more greens, reducing dairy intake.  No rocket science.

I’ve also found – of all the supplements I read about, Vitex 750 has been the best for me in terms of regulating my periods.

Many women have managed to overcome PCOS and have babies.  That I only found out really after months of internet searching – the first sites I found about PCOS emphasised the difficulties associated with the illness and worsened my fears re. fertility.  If I had known the amount of women who have conquered the cysts, I would have saved myself a lot of worry.

Hot Kidney Bean Hash

This next recipe happened by accident, as a result of me failing to properly read the recipe I was trying to follow.  What was supposed to be a simplified version of Louisiana Red Beans turned into something far creamier and thicker in consistency, reminding me of the corned beef hash my mum used to make, but without the mashed potato topping.  Sometimes our mistakes are good :) And this meal turned out to be very hearty, almost curry-like comfort food which kept me from starving for a total of 3 days.

 

1 onion,

3 garlic cloves,

1/2 green pepper,

2 celery sticks,

3 cans of sugar-free red beans,

1 can of tomatoes,

1 tsp paprika,

1 tsp thyme,

1 tsp oregano,

half tsp ground black pepper,

1 tsp cayenne pepper,

2 tsp hot sauce,

plenty of cooked brown rice to serve.

 

In the blender, pulse the onion, pepper, garlic and celery until you have a green puree.  Cook for about 10 minutes in a large pre-heated pan.  While that is cooking, rinse the beans well and pulse 1 and a half cans worth of them in the blender along with the can of tomatoes.  Stir in the slushy beans and the whole beans with the vegetables and add the herbs and spices.  Boil then place lid on pot, turn heat low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Fresh coriander makes a good garnish.  Add salt and extra hot sauce to taste.

My Review of Domino’s Gluten Free Pizza

When I heard that Domino’s were finally due to start serving Gluten Free pizzas, I was a little excited.  I used to enjoy the veg supreme and volcano pizzas, and ordered them whenever there was a deal on, (as there often is in the student areas of Manchester) or I felt the urge to treat myself.  I even had them a couple of times since my decision to rule gluten out of my diet.  Such is their evil mono-sodium-glutamate filled allure.

The pizza bases went on sale last Monday, though I was almost expecting the branch I phoned to tell me they’d sold out or hadn’t been able to stock them yet for some reason.  Of course, everything was fine, the only downfall being that the GF pizza bases are only made in small size. ‘ That doesn’t matter’ I said, and ordered the small Veg Supreme.

After the half an hour’s wait (plus delivery man checking with his boss that I had already paid over the phone like I’d said) I was ready for my pizza!   I opened the box and noted that it was an inch or two or few bigger than the free ‘personal pizzas’ I pretend to be a student for at the start of each new academic year…  I took a bite…

And it is safe to say that, at £11.99 a pop, which almost no pizza in the world is worth, it was a huge, gigantic let down.

The crust was noticeably warmed-from-frozen.  The toppings tasted no different than if I had gone out and bought a cheap bag of veg and loaded its contents onto the pizza.  The one redeeming feature was the garlic sauce, which just about made the pizza taste like normal Domino’s pizzas.   However, I did not order garlic sauce as a main dish.

Perhaps I should be less harsh – it is good that Domino’s are conscious of their coeliac and gluten-intolerant customers, many of whom have been looking forward to this new development as much as I was…. but the recipe they use still needs improving if it’s to stand-up to the quality of their fresh pizzas.

So my advice is this:  save your money and buy a frozen Genius tomato pizza base, which were about £2.99 last time I checked in Tesco.  Then buy whatever cheese and veg you want, pile that on top, and cook it in the oven for the 12 minutes necessary…  it will be just as good, if not better….. and find a good garlic sauce!

Raw Pineapple Curry with Aubergine Pancakes

Here is a recipe I found at rawmazing.com

(you can tell the difference between myself, as a lay chef, and Susan from Rawmazing, a professional, just by a comparison of the two above photos! :)

Curried Pineapple and Parsnips with Veggies

  • 2 cups parsnips, chopped fine in the food processor
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mâche

1. Stir all ingredients together.

Mache Dressing

  • 1 cup mâche
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

1. Place all ingredients in blender, blend until smooth. Serve to the side of the salad.

Aubergine Pancakes

A tasty, substantial savoury pancake.  Plus it contains aubergine, which I love at the minute, for some reason, that may or not not be to do with the nicotine content!  Makes 4.

  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 50 g (2o z) flour
  • 4 tablespoon vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Prick the aubergine all over and roast it on a baking sheet at 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 30-35 minutes. Let it cool, then scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork until it is smooth. Sauté the garlic and onions in a non-stick pan (with water or a little stock if desired). Add this to the aubergine. Add the flour, baking powder, stock, parsley, pepper, and salt, and mix it all thoroughly. Coat a frying pan with a little oil and heat it to a medium heat. Add spoonfuls of the batter to the pan and cook until golden.