Lentil Lancashire Hotpot

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The autumn feeling is coming in Berlin and this calls for more hearty food. The last few weeks have been tough as we get into the new school year and the inevitable tiredness also means we look towards comforting food. Lancashire Hot Pot is a traditional English dish made with lamb but it is the crispy sliced potato topping that I really associate with the dish from my childhood. Here the filling is made of chana dhal which retains a little bite and is made rich and succulent with mushrooms, wine, tomatoes and lots of herbs. It can be a meal in itself or served with piles of green veg like cabbage, broccoli and kale. I also made a thick gravy to serve it with.

Ingredients 

Serves 4 as a main course

250g dried chana dhal

A large onion, finely chopped

A large carrot, finely chopped

10 medium mushrooms sliced

2 large, ripe tomatoes chopped

a tablespoon tomato puree

A clove of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

Dried thyme and oregano

100ml red or rose wine

1 vegetable stock cube

100ml of water

3 large potatoes very thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until starting to soften but still having a firm bite. This will take about 30-40 minutes.  Meanwhile, sautee the onion, garlic, carrots and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the drained, just cooked, lentils and all of the rest of the ingredients, except the remaining oil, and the potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are properly cooked but not mushy. If you prefer, you could cook them softer. Season to taste and spoon the lentil mixture into the bottom of a wide shallow dish. By using a wide dish, you get a larger surface area to layer your potatoes and there is a better chance they will crisp up. Toss the potato slices in the remaining olive oil. Then layer them carefully over the top of the lentil mixture, overlapping the slightly. You can chose to have one or two layers deepening on how filling you want it to be. Season the potatoes. Place the dish into a medium oven for about 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and brown and crispy on top.

Spelt Salad with Broccoli, Walnuts and Pomegranate

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Having developed a recent interest in the macrobiotic diet and its emphasis on whole grains, I am a recent convert to spelt. They call it dinkel in Germany and I think that is a much nicer name, making it sound more whimsical. I actually prefer the spelt raw and soaked for about 24 hours. I add it to stir fries and salads but I know that some people find it irritates their digestive system, so I have cooked it here. I made this really spicy with some great locally grown chillies I bought in a big bunch on the market  in Berlin yesterday but you can leave it out all together if you prefer. This really is a meal in itself and it is delicious. It is chewy and crunchy and sweet and very savoury, all at the same time and, of course, incredibly nutritious. I served it on a bed of baby spinach leaves and we ate it with the soba noodle salad but we are greedy.

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

50g of raw spelt boiled for about 20 minutes until it is still chewy but not hard

A handful of raw broccoli very finely shredded

A handful of finely chopped cucumber

2 large handfuls of fresh coriander chopped

Seeds from half a fresh pomegranate

A large handful of walnuts, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes and roughly chopped

A tablespoon of olive oil

A teaspoon of cider vinegar

The juice of half a small lemon

2 teaspoons of tahina

Half a teaspoon of dijon mustard

A tiny amount of crushed raw garlic

1 large chilli very finely chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all of the fresh ingredients with the spelt in a large bowl. Combine the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, tahina, mustard, garlic and chilli to make a dressing. Pour dressing onto the salad. Season to taste.

 

 

 

Eggplant, Chickpea and Mushroom Pilaf with Toasted Almond Flakes

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I keep complaining how hard it is to get really good Indian food in Berlin. Sometimes I need to eat a plate of Indian food that is  vibrant with the complex flavours of fresh, whole spices. That is hard to find here so I have to cook it myself. I like this dish because, although it is rice based, it is light and  not at all stodgy. Use the best basmati rice that you can afford and rinse it well before use then be very careful to cook it lightly as it can turn to mush easily. Both eggplant and mushroom have good, strong texture and hold their flavour well. The toasted almonds add extra flavour and texture. It is really important to use fresh, whole spices, powder is just not the same in this dish.

Ingredients 

Serves 4

1 large onion thinly sliced

Half an eggplant cut int thin half moons

200g mushrooms cut into thick slices

2 medium tomatoes chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, a whole green chili and a thumbnail sized piece of fresh ginger ground to a pulp

250g basmati rice rinsed

1 tin of chickpeas

1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds, fennel seeds and black mustard seeds

1 piece of cinnamon stick

2 black cardamom pods

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons of toasted almond flakes or slivers

A large handful of fresh coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onions gently in half of the oil until they are dark brown but not burnt. In a separate pan fry the eggplant and mushrooms in the rest of the oil. Toast all of the whole spices in a small dry pan but be careful not to burn them. Then combine them together with the chili, garlic, ginger paste, rice, onions, eggplant, mushrooms, chickpeas and tomatoes in a larger pan. Add just enough water to barely cover the rice and season. Bring slowly to the boil and  cover tightly with some foil before putting on the lid. Turn to a very low simmer until the rice is about two thirds cooked. Do not stir during this time.This will take about 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave with the lid on tight for a further 5 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and liberally garnish with almonds and coriander.

Sweet Potato Enchiladas and Baked Corn Salsa

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The fresh corn is coming to an end now in Europe but it has been an amazing season. As a more warming dish for the slightly cooler weather, I baked this dish to create Enchiladas and also baked the salsa on top. The enchiladas are filled with a combination of sweet potatoes and red, kidney beans. Sweet potato enchiladas is one of the first vegan dishes I ever created. I have served it to the most fussy and old fashioned meat eaters and everyone has loved it.

Preparation time 20 minutes. Cooking time 1 hour

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the enchiladas

A medium onion finely chopped

A crushed clove of garlic

4 medium fresh tomatoes liquidised

Two chopped red chillies

Two medium, peeled, sweet potatoes cut into 3cm cubes

A tin of red kidney beans

A large red pepper chopped or sliced

A teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin

A teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

A teaspoon of oregano

A handful of fresh coriander

Half a tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Four large tortilla wraps

For the salsa

Two ears of corn roasted in the oven for 15 minutes and corn removed

A large tomato finely chopped

Two chopped spring onions

A red chilli finely chopped

A handful of fresh coriander

Two teaspoons of lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and cook the onion, garlic and peppers for about five minutes till soft. Add all of the other ingredients for the enchiladas, except the tortillas. Bring to the boil and turn to a simmer for about 40 minutes. Before filling the tortillas, mash some of the sweet potato with the back of a fork so the fillings a thick consistency.

Share the filling between the four tortillas and roll or fold them for cooking. Place in a large baking dish.

Add all of the salsa ingredients to a bowl and stir together. Season to taste. Spoon evenly across the top of the enchiladas. Place in a medium oven for 10 minutes until the salsa is warm and the tortillas are soft.

 

Button Mushroom and Chickpea “Chasseur”

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Chasseur is the French term for hunter. Chasseur dishes are normally made with game cooked slowly in wine until the dish is sweet and rich. Fortunately, during the hunting season, there is also an abundance of mushrooms for us vegans to enjoy. Mushrooms are another food that help build our immune system and should be eaten every day during the winter. I found some delightful, tiny, button mushrooms which cried out to be the main feature of a dish. This would also be great with the addition of whole, tiny onions. The chickpeas could be replaced with white beans. This could be served with crusty bread or mashed potatoes.

Preparation time 15 minutes. Cooking time 1 hour.

Serves 4

Ingredients

300g of button mushrooms left whole

Two large carrots cut into circles 1cm thick

A large onion finely chopped

A large aubergine cut into 3cm dice

A tin of chickpeas

150ml of white wine

A large tomato chopped finely

A crushed clove of garlic

Two teaspoons of fresh thyme

Half a tablespoon of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a casserole dish and add the onion, garlic and aubergine. Stir for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place into a medium oven for about an hour. You can add a little water if it starts to dry out but try not to water down the dish sauce too much. The aubergine should be soft and starting to melt before the dish is removed from the oven.

Thick Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Massaman

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Massaman is my favourite South East Asian curry. It should be thick and rich with a slight peanutty flavour. You can get Massaman curry paste in Asian supermarkets. If you cannot get any the use a red or yellow Thai paste and add half a teaspoon of ground cumin and ground coriander. Cauliflowers are really good at the moment and have a good flavour. Cruciferous vegetables are excellent for strong immunity and help us to fight colds over the winter.

 

Preparation time 10 minutes. Cooking time 15-20 minutes

Serves 3

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of Mossamon curry paste

1 cinnamon stick

1 stick of lemon grass crushed a little

A thumbnail sized piece of ginger left whole

Two medium sweet potatoes peeled and diced into 3cm cubes

A medium cauliflower broken into small florets

A tin of coconut milk

A handful of toasted peanuts finely ground

A large red chilli chopped

A handful of fresh coriander

A few toasted peanuts for garnish

Put the curry paste into a warm pan and toast it for a few seconds before adding half of the coconut milk. Stir till it is all combined. Add the lemon grass, cinnamon and ginger and the fresh chilli to taste. Add in the vegetables and stir to coat with the wet ingredients. Add the rest of the coconut milk, bring to a boil and turn to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes and cauliflower are just soft. Stir in the ground peanuts and most of the coriander. Garnish with whole peanuts and coriander.

 

 

Home Grown Mung Bean Sprouts with Stir Fried Noodles and Cashew Nuts

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Sprouting your own beansprouts is really easy. See my post about this. They are so delicious in a stir fry and a great source of protein. As always with nuts, the cashews taste much better if they are toasted first. Broccoli is great for boosting the immune system.

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes

Serves 4

A head of broccoli chopped

A red pepper chopped

A large clove of garlic crushed

A thumbnail piece of fresh ginger chopped

A leek finely chopped

2 handfuls of toasted cashew nuts

4 handfuls of fresh sprouted mung beans

A tablespoon of light soya sauce

A teaspoon of honey

A finely chopped chilli

A tablespoon of white wine.

A tablespoon of oil for cooking

A teaspoon of sesame oil

300 g of wholewheat noodles cooked.

Heat a large pan or wok until it is very hot and then add the oil and heat until the oil is smoking. Add the vegetables to the oil, together with the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 5 minutes.  Grind one of the handfuls of cashews and add these together with the whole cashews and mung bean sprouts. Now add in the noodles and stir plus a splash of white wine. Add the soya sauce, honey and chill and stir fry for a few more minutes. Add a little water if the pan gets  too dry. Finish with the sesame oil.