Eggplant bake with spicy coconut milk and tomatoes

A lovely vegan comfort food with warming spices and creamy coconut milk.

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4 eggplants cut into 1/4″ slices
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 x 14oz cans chopped tomatoes
8 fl oz coconut milk
sugar, to taste
2 tbsp flaked almonds
small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 425 F. Generously brush each eggplant slice with vegetable oil and place in a single layer on a baking tray, or two if they don’t fit on one. Cook on the low shelves for 10 mins, then turn over and cook for a further 5-10 mins until they are golden. Reduce the oven to 350 F.

Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan and add the onions. Cover and sweat on a low heat for about 5 mins until softened. Add the garlic, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, garam masala, chilli powder, cinnamon stick, cumin and ground coriander. Cook for a few secs until it starts to smell beautiful and aromatic.

Pour the chopped tomatoes and coconut milk into the spiced onions and stir well. Check the seasoning and add a little sugar, salt or pepper to taste.

Spoon a third of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 4 pint ovenproof dish. Layer with half the eggplant slices. Spoon over a further third of tomato sauce, then the remaining eggplant slices, and finish with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and cilantro (if using), reserving some to serve, and bake for 25-30 mins. Serve garnished with more cilantro.


Spinach with roasted sesame dressing

All you need with this is some boiled rice and a lovely piece of fish or meat. It’s delicious as the nutty sesame flavors go so well with spinach

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Serves 4

1/3 cup white sesame seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1/4 cup dashi stock
1 1/4lb spinach, trimmed
Bamboo sushi mat for rolling the spinach.

Toast the sesame seeds in a heated small frying pan, without oil, shaking the pan continuously until browned lightly and the seeds begin to pop. Remove from the heat, reserve 1 tsp for garnish. Blend, process or grind the hot seeds until smooth.
Combine the ground seeds with the sugar, soy sauce and dashi in a screw top jar and shake well until the sugar dissolves.

Wash the spinach well. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Immerse the spinach, drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the color.
Wrap the spinach leaves in a bamboo mat. Roll firmly, gently squeeze out the excess water. Cut the spinach into 1 inch lengths and arrange on a serving plate.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the spinach. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with the reserved sesame seeds.

* You can also use chopped dry roasted peanuts sprinkled over as a garnish

Roast butternut squash stuffed with Medjool dates, cashew nuts and cilantro couscous

I just love winter food especially when it’s anything to do with butternut squash. This one is from Skye Gyngall and is gorgeous with such interesting flavors.

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Serves 2 and could easily be augmented

1 small butternut squash
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
a decent drizzle of olive oil
a good splosh of white wine
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the stuffing

6 oz instant couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 small leek, finely sliced
4oz cashew nuts
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cardamon pod, crushed open with the flat of a knife
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp hot curry powder
6 Medjool dates, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting dish and sprinkle over the garlic slivers and thyme. Drizzle over the olive oil, pour over the white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for about 10 more minutes until the squash is tender.
This may take a little longer depending on the size of your squash. Check it’s doneness as you would a potato and remove from the oven. Leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the stuffing.
Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over about 1/2 cup cold water or chicken broth and leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the shallot, leek, cashews, mustard seeds, cardamon pod, ginger, coconut and curry powder and fry gently until the shallot is soft and the aroma from the spices is making you hungry!
Turn up the heat and add the couscous to the pan, stirring thoroughly.
Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes.
Stir again to fluff up the grains, then add the dates, herbs and lemon juice and season to taste.
Stuff the squash with the couscous and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately

Curried onion and cauliflower hummus

Cooking the dried garbanzo beans (chick peas) in baking soda, softens them and makes this hummus extra silky. The curried onion-cauliflower topping adds tons of wonderful flavor.

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1lb (2 1/2 cups) dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight and drained
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Canola oil, for frying
1/2lb cauliflower, cut into 1/2 inch florets
2 tsp curry powder
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp finely crushed pink peppercorns
Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a saucepan, cover the garbanzo beans, garlic and baking soda with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring every 15 minutes, until the garbanzo beans are tender, 50 mins, if necessary, add water to them to keep them covered.

Drain the garbanzo beans and garlic and transfer to a food processor. Puree until very smooth.
With the machine on, gradually add the tahini, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil and the cumin. Season the hummus with salt.

In a skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil. Add the cauliflower florets and fry over moderately high heat, stirring, until tender and deeply browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain. Add 1 tsp of the curry powder and toss well. Season with salt and toss again.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup oil from the skillet. Add the onion and a big pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until just starting to soften and brown in spots, about 5 minutes.
Add the pink peppercorns and the remaining 1 tsp of curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Spoon the hummus into a bowl and top with the onion and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with parsley and serve
Serve with warm pita bread.

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Cumin and Fennel

Another vegan, dairy-free beauty of a salad (from Food 52) for those hot summer days. If you like, you can add crumbles Greek feta cheese or even sliced Kalamata olives to have some variety, of course it would become vegetarian.

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Serves 6

6 cups cubed (1/2-inch cubes) watermelon
2 heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup sliced mint
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chile powder
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional – Greek feta cheese, crumbled
halved pitted Kalamata olives

Puree 2 cups of the watermelon in a blender and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the remaining watermelon and tomato and toss with the sugar, a large pinch of salt, the mint, and lime juice.

Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add enough oil to thinly coat the base of the pan. When the oil is hot, sprinkle in the cumin, fennel, and ginger, and toast for 30 seconds. Add the turmeric and chile powder, then 1/2 cup watermelon juice, and the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer. Add salt or sugar as desired, and cook for 1 minute.

Pour the sauce over the watermelon and tomatoes and gently fold together. Divide among 6 shallow bowls, and serve.

Vegan Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Citrus and Ginger

I could eat this whole thing in one go, being a coconut addict and it’s delicious for breakfast, lunch or dessert for dinner. The addition of the ginger and citrus really takes it to another dimension

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Serves 4

1 can (13.6 fluid oz.) full fat coconut milk
1 cup water
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 cup long grain basmati rice
2 to 4 tbsp maple syrup, to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp orange zest

Mix the coconut milk, water, orange juice, vanilla extract, salt, and rice in a medium-sized pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover the pot, but leave the lid very slightly ajar to let steam escape.

Simmer the rice for 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed. Stir in maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, and zest. Continue cooking till rice is creamy and soft. If necessary, add a little more water or maple syrup.

Serve warm or cool, dusted with extra cinnamon if desired!

Carrot Salad with Tahini, Crispy Garbanzo Beans and Salted pistachios

I just love non-meat dishes these days especially with the temperature so warm. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I do fantasize about being one.
This is another beauty of a recipe and simple to make.

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Garbanzo beans
1 3/4 cups cooked Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), or 1 15-ounce can, drained and patted dry on paper towels
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 lb carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4 cup shelled, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp well-stirred tahini
2 tbsp water, plus more if needed
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Roast chickpeas: Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the chickpeas with one tbsp olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated.
Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly. Set aside until needed.

Make dressing: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, adding more water if needed to thin the dressing slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning; don’t worry if it tastes a little sharp on the lemon, it will marry perfectly with the sweet grated carrots.

Assemble salad: Place the grated carrots in a large bowl and toss with the parsley. Mix in 2/3 of the dressing, adding more if desired. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with a large handful of chickpeas (you’ll have extra and if you’re like us, won’t regret it) and the pistachios and dig in.

Do ahead: Salad keeps well in the fridge for two days, however, I’d add the chickpeas and pistachios right before serving, so they don’t get soft