Meat Free March – part two

The next part of my MFM adventure was heralded by a triumphant text from my mother yesterday: “I got it!!”

‘It’ being the elusive tahini, which means… time for MFM part 2! Warm pumpkin salad with chickpeas and tahini. 

First on the agenda, chopping a large butternut squash. The recipe also recommends pumpkin, but since most British shops seem to think pumpkins are purely decorative items to be sold for Halloween, I used good old butternut.

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I’m always conflicted when using butternut squash. It’s one of my favourite foods: it’s delicious, it’s versatile, it’s low in calories and high in vitamins and fibre… and yet, my heart always sinks when I get my hands on one and realise that I have to peel and chop it before I can benefit from all of that. I’ve tried multiple ways to make it less arduous, though none makes it what I’d call easy. As you can see from the picture, I usually adopt this method – separating the bulbous bit from the straight bit and dealing with them separately. I read somewhere once that chopping the straight portion into discs then running the peeler round the edge of them makes it easier. That turned out to be true only if the squash is straight as a ruler though, which of course it rarely is. If anyone has a better way to do it, I’d love to hear about it…

Anyway, enough whingeing. With the squash diced into submission and put in the oven to roast with some olive oil, crushed garlic and half a teaspoon of allspice, the rest of the salad was a doddle. I added half a red onion (chopped) to the roasting tin too – the recipe said to chop it up and add it to the salad raw, but my mother doesn’t like raw onion and since she assisted in sourcing the tahini I wanted her to enjoy this meal.

The tahini sauce is made by mixing 3 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp olive oil, 3.5 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon’s worth), 2 tbsp water and a crushed garlic clove. It started off looking very curdled and weird, but after about 30 seconds mixing with a fork it magically turned into a lovely creamy mixture which tasted amazing.

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All that remained was to drain and rinse a can of chickpeas, chop up a generous amount of coriander (about 3tbsp apparently, though I love coriander so just chopped a whole bunch and added it with wild abandon), and mix them with the roasted squash. Some salt and pepper to taste, and then the whole lot was drizzled with the tahini sauce.

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Apologies again for a poor quality shot, but take it from me – this is one of the few dishes I’ve made that looks almost as attractive as the picture in the cookbook! The bright colours of the squash, onion and coriander contrast beautifully with the white tahini sauce.

The recipe said it served four, and when I dished up that looked pretty stingy so I divided it into three instead. Actually though, this was deceptively filling, especially as I did quick flatbreads again – already becoming a staple recipe! Although it’s called a salad, it’s quite heavy, and the flavours are warm and rich rather than refreshing. If you wanted to freshen it a bit you could try serving it over some spinach leaves or similar – I’m going to try doing that soon. After all, this went down really well, and I now have some tahini to use up…

(PS: I just ate the remaining portion of this for lunch, and it was really good cold too. The tahini sauce had gone a tiny bit sticky, but a night in the fridge seems to have brought out the flavours even more – yum!)

Meat Free March adventure – part one

Earlier this month, Becs and Fay invited me to participate in Meat Free March. Well to be specific, since every month is meat free for me, they invited me to their MFM recipe swap. The idea was simple: tell them your food loves and hates, and get paired with another blogger. Send each other a vegetarian recipe (plus an ingredient), and blog about making it!

A little later, I was very excited to receive my parcel from Evan: a recipe for Warm Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad with Tahini, plus a bonus recipe for flatbreads. Evan had photocopied the cover of the book the recipes are from – Casa Moro – the second cookbook - in all its colourful glory. Check out the link, it’s beautiful! He’d also kindly included some yeast for the bread, plus another bonus: some miso soup for me to try. I was totally spoiled. Thanks Evan!

So Good Friday rolled around, and a day off work combined with two hungry parents made it seem like an auspicious time to give this recipe a try. Off I toddled to Tesco, where I found everything I needed, except for the tahini. Uh oh, this was a key ingredient. I asked one of the shop assistants where I could find it, and was met with a look of complete blankness.

“Tallini? What’s that then?”

“Er, tahini, it’s sort of sesame paste. You use it to make houmous.”

“That’s a new one to me dear, you’ll have to ask customer services.”

Somehow the idea of marching up to customer services and enquiring about tahini seemed too petit-bourgeois to contemplate. Or perhaps I’m just a wuss. Anyway, I opted for skulking around the ‘ingredients’ (aka exotic/obscure stuff) aisle, studiously avoiding eye contact with the lady whose advice I’d spurned, and scouring the shelves for the elusive tahini. And success! There was the shelf tag I wanted – Belvini tahini (v pleasing rhyme no?). But no, defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory as I realised it was sold out.

Back to a different shop assistant to ask if they’d mind checking the stockroom for tahini.

“Tallini?”

Ho hum. Did I mention that my sister had been practising wedding prep and that I was therefore sporting some very extravagent ‘wedding hair’? And that I’d hoped to nip in and out of the shop unnoticed? Well, I was, and I had. Never mind. I explained again and pointed to the shelf tag, and she very kindly went and looked for me. (Or went out back and laughed with her colleagues about the weirdo with inappropriate hair asking for obscure ingredients, who knows?) But nothing doing.

So no pumpkin with tahini that night! But I’d promised my parents flatbreads, so flatbreads there must be. Luckily, I’d also been planning to make a different squash salad this week: a BBC Good Food one with Puy lentils which I reckoned would go nicely. So here’s part 1 of my MFM adventure, part 2 to follow when I lay my hands on some tahini!

Warm roasted squash with Puy lentil salad, and quick flatbreads

The salad recipe was pretty straightforward – I won’t reproduce it here as you can see it on the BBC Good Food site, which if you haven’t yet discovered is well worth a visit. I started off by peeling, de-seeding and dicing the squash: the only thing about squash I don’t like is how arduous the preparation is! While that was in the oven I built the salad base:

Note the tupperware – this is for lunch today, yum!

With the salad ready and just waiting for its squash, I turned my attention to the flatbread recipe.

Flatbread recipe

I went for the ‘quick’ recipe since we were hungry, and Evan mentioned in his note he’d had success with it in the past. I also doubled it to feed four instead of two.

260g flour and 1/2 tsp salt in one bowl, 200ml warm water and 1/2 tsp dried yeast in another:

Bread mix

Yeast and water stirred, then gradually added to the flour, incorporating with fingers in a ‘slapping motion':

Adding water

2 tbsp olive oil beaten in with fingers. The dough had a great stretchy texture at this point but seemed VERY oily. I was a little worried, but the recipe clearly said 2tbsp so I decided to trust it.

Dough and whiskey

Dough needing to prove for 20 minutes and whiskey in hand (thanks Dad), time to help Lara Croft out of a pickle:TR

Enemies despatched, back to the dough, which is shaped with floured hands into a sausage, then cut into four equal pieces. Each piece is then rolled out into a very thin, rough circle shape on a floured surface, then placed into a large frying pan over a medium heat.

bread in pan

Previous worries about oiliness proved unfounded: the dough seemed perfect! Note my ‘rough circle’ shape is really just ‘rough’ – I’m an impatient soul, and this unfortunate trait tends to extend to my cooking technique I’m afraid. Anyway, doesn’t the roughness make them look more authentically home-made? Yeah.

Flatbreads cooked for a couple of minutes (just enough time to retrieve the roasted squash and top the salads with it), then flipped and cooked again until brown spots appear but the bread is still pliable.

And…serve!

Meal

(Sorry for the absolutely rubbish photo, I appear to be the Death of Cameras in human form, and am therefore currently limited to using my camera phone, which is pretty poor.)

This was delicious. The warm bread was so satisfying, and went brilliantly with the salad, which was sweet and fresh and the perfect antidote to a couple of days filled with Easter chocolate and cake. I’ll definitely be making it again, and when I get some tahini for MFM the flatbreads will definitely be out for round two. Big thanks to Becs and Fay for organising this, watch this space…

Birthday cake

Welcome to Hannah Eats Vegan! There’s a little introduction on the About page so I won’t bore you again with that. Instead, I want to talk about cake. The best, most exciting kind of cake: birthday cake.

A few weeks ago, my friend (and fellow part-time vegan) Sam had a birthday. Discretion forbids me from mentioning his age… also he regularly provides me with snacks and I don’t want to be cut off! Sam, you’re a spring chicken. Anyway, my housemate loves baking as much as I do, so we decided to collaborate on a vegan cake masterpiece. It really was a collaborative effort too, with him providing a tried-and-tested ganache recipe for the topping, me offering my favourite sweet avocado filling, and both of us taking the plunge on a previously untried recipe for chocolate courgette cake. We weren’t entirely without doubts: would this turn into a quirky, delicious veg-lover’s dream, or a weird mess? What if we passed it around the office and no-one wanted to eat it?

Well.

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Photo from sampickard.wordpress.com.

I guess we needn’t have worried.

Sadly we all failed horribly at taking pictures of the cake pre-demolition, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it looked pretty lovely (though I say so myself) with its nicely risen sponge, chocolate coating and a scattering of raspberries on top. More importantly though, it tasted spectacular. The courgette gave the chocolate sponge the perfect amount of moisture without hurting the crumb, and the sweetness of avocado filling contrasted nicely with the dark chocolate ganache. I mean, I don’t want to boast, but the birthday boy himself later went on to say that it was “the best vegan cake ever made”. And you can’t argue with someone on their birthday, right?

Recipes:

The sponge recipe is from Meat and Egg Free (scroll down to find it). We grated our courgettes using a food processor with grater attachment rather than the strict ‘downward motion’ called for, and it didn’t seem to do any harm

The avocado filling is from this recipe by Joy The Baker. I also highly recommend you try the full cake recipe at some point, it’s fab.

The dark chocolate ganache recipe is from this recipe. We used Montezuma’s Very Dark chocolate, ‘cos they’re ethical, but I imagine any good dark choc would do the job. We also used hazelnut milk rather than almond, because I had it in the fridge. My housemate thinks this might have stopped it thickening and setting properly, so use almond milk if you can.

Enjoy!