Red lentil and aubergine mousakka

Vegetarian mousakka

Vegetarian mousakka

After a delicious meal at Ezo’s Turkish Restaurant last weekend, I decided to have a go at making mousakka myself. This new take on the classic recipe uses red lentils and aubergines. In total, it takes about an hour, but it’s well worth it!

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1 aubergine, sliced into thin circles
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 100g red lentils, cooked according to packet instructions
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

  • 125g ricotta
  • 125g Greek yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Toss the aubergine slices in olive oil, then drain and season to taste.
  3. Fry the aubergine slices until golden-brown on both sides.
  4. Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the pan and fry until softened.
  5. Stir in the tomato purée and continue to fry for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon stick and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the lentils and fried aubergines to the mixture. Simmer until warmed through.
  8. Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  9. For the topping, beat together the ricotta, Greek yoghurt, eggs and grated nutmeg in a bowl. Season, to taste.
  10. Pour the topping mixture into the ovenproof dish on top of the filling. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown. Serve immediately.

Yummy!

Photo: Candice Eisner

Turkish delight

Falafel

Falafel

Thegreenveggie took a trip to Bristol this weekend and had the chance to sample some authentic Turkish cooking at Ezo Turkish Restaurant, which is located on the bohemian Gloucester Road in St Andrews.

After being chided for not booking a table (the waiter was half-joking, but he did give us a stern lecture!) we were seated at a table right in front of the open kitchen, where we could watch the two chefs hard at work over the grill.

Turkish cuisine is probably best known for its grilled meats, but the menu presented an impressive array of vegetarian options. In fact, with dishes like red lentil soup, feta and spinach filo parcels and grilled halloumi, deciding on a starter (or meze) proved tricky.

Falafel

Having seen the size of the main courses, my guest and I decided to share a plate of falafel (fritters made from chick peas, beans and spices). These were carefully presented on a bed of fresh salad and were accompanied by delicate swirls of homous.

The falafel were perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with subtle hints of coriander and cumin really enhancing the flavours. This was complemented well by the mild garlic tones of the homous.

The menu provided less choice for the main course, with all of the dishes from the barbecue strictly ruled out for vegetarians. However, there were three suitable oven-baked dishes, including vegetable turlu (a kind of stew) and mixed roast vegetables.

Musakka

I decided to try the musakka, which was made from potatoes and aubergines in white sauce, topped with feta cheese. From our vantage point, I could see the chef produce a steaming ceramic dish from the oven, and the waiter immediately brought it to our table.

There was slightly too much cheese for my liking, which made the top greasy, but the roasted aubergine, which can so often be tough and chewy, was beautifully tender and infused with rich flavours of garlic, black pepper and olive oil.

We didn’t try a dessert, but the baklava (layers of filo pastry with syrup and chopped nuts) looked delicious. Definitely a reason to go back! The meal was good value for money, with most starters priced at £3.95, mains at £9.95 and desserts at £3.80.

Photo: Kudu Momo

Vegetarian blogs

When I first started thegreenveggie, I was slightly overwhelmed by just how many vegetarian blogs there are out there. Yet they’re all so different and distinct. Here are a few of my favourites…

Herbivoracious

herbivoracious

herbivoracious

Herbivoracious is a brilliant and very widely read veggie blog, with more than 92,000 subscribers. The aim of the blog is to reinvigorate vegetarian cuisine by promoting modern techniques and bold, authentic flavours.

The blog is run by Michael Natkin from Seattle. Michael worked as a software engineer for 25 years, before deciding his true passion lay in the kitchen. Since then, he interned in a kitchen, published a recipe book and now he’s planning to open a small restaurant.

Michael said: “I’ve been a vegetarian since 1984. Here’s why. I’m passionate about bringing big flavors and good culinary technique to vegetarian cooking. Not to say I don’t also love a big plate of waffle house hash browns.”

This blog is bursting with original and inspiring recipes, which are neatly archived and easy to find. It’s nicely laid out, with lovely big images, plus video and audio clips, which make the recipes really easy to follow. Definitely worth a read.

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly

Veggie Belly is another excellent vegetarian recipe blog, with more than 5,000 fans on Facebook. The blog is run by Sala Kannan, who was born in India and grew up with fiery, bold flavours, which influenced her cooking.

Sala is one well-travelled lady and her blog combines insightful travel writing with stunning photography and unusual recipes from every corner of the globe. She describes herself as a software services entrepreneur by day and a hobby cook and food blogger by night.

Sala said: “I was raised a vegetarian and have been vegetarian for most of my life. I love it and will never change it. But you won’t see me preaching vegetarianism. I respect people’s eating choices. I have a husband who eats meat and I have no problem with it.”

Veggie Belly’s greatest strength is its beautiful photography, which makes the recipes irresistible to try and easy to follow. And with pages on home, garden and travel, this is more than just a food blog, Sala talks about vegetarianism in all aspects of life.

Vegansaurus

vegansaurus

vegansaurus

Vegansaurus is a popular vegan lifestyle blog, covering food, politics and news related to veganism. Based in San Francisco, the site was set up in late 2008 and gets over 100,000 page views every month.

The best thing about vegansaurus is its light-hearted, banterous tone, which makes it accessible and fun to read. It also has a wide range of contributors, whose distinctive voices make this site wonderfully varied and diverse.

The site is updated very regularly and has a huge amount of content, making this one of the best sites around for product reviews and recipes. This is a fun, friendly and frank blog. Definitely worth a look.

Quote of the day

Quote

“It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet.  I do not regard flesh-food as necessary for us at any stage and under any clime in which it is possible for human beings ordinarily to live.”

Mahatma Gandhi, spiritual leader (1869 – 1948)

Persian Cuisine

Thegreenveggie has been out and about in Shropshire this week and stumbled across a real hidden gem, called Dorrington Old Hall Persian Cuisine. Persian (or Iranian) cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and the best news is, it’s great for veggies.

It turns out tv chef Jamie Oliver is also an admirer. In the recent series Jamie’s Great Britain, he said: “Iranian cuisine is sometimes called Persian, and there’s a real buzz about these sets of flavours and ideas among chefs, right now.”

Dorrington Old Hall was the first Persian restaurant to open in Shropshire and the traditionally British black and white timber-framed building, which dates from the 13th century, contrasts with the Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Indian culinary influences.

Freshly prepared

The restaurant’s owner and chef Ijlal Haider recognises that many people have never tried Persian food before, so he provides an extensive buffet, where diners can try a diverse range of freshly prepared dishes.

A starter was quickly brought to our table by a friendly waitress, who was eager to explain all the different mazeh, or appetizers. These consisted of fresh black and green olives, naan-e-barbair (Persian flat breads) and a selection of dips.

The naan-e-barbair, which are the most common style of bread baked in Iran, were still warm and tasted as if they had come straight out of the oven. They had been lightly brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

Homous and flat bread

Homous and flat bread

Homous

They were accompanied by mast-o-bademjan (a dip made of roasted aubergines and onions in yoghurt), salad shirazi (tomato, cucumber and onion with mint, lemon juice and olive oil) and homous (creamed chick peas with garlic and lemon juice).

All of the dips had rich, complex flavours. The homous was thick and had a strong, garlic taste, but this was perfectly balanced by the refreshing hints of lemon and complemented the cucumber, tomato and mint in the salad.

A “culinary selection” buffet of main courses is available most nights and offers a selection of 12 different dishes, about half of which are suitable for vegetarians. My favourite of these was Ghormeh Sabzi, which is considered by many to be the Iranian national dish.

National dish

Made from rose coco beans, spinach, onions and parsley, it is a rich and mildly spicy stew, which was served with steamed basmati rice. The Khoresht-e-Gheimeh, or split-pea stew, which contained yellow split-peas, lentils and garlic, was also delicious.

Dr Haider is clearly passionate about his food. After working as a surgeon for many years, he  swapped his doctor’s coat for a chef’s apron to share his love of his native cuisine. He was on hand throughout the evening to talk to the diners and explain the dishes.

He is clearly a talented chef and reached the finals of both the South Asian Chef award and the Shropshire Curry Chef of the Year award in 2011. Overall, it was a delicious meal in a friendly and intimate setting, and it was very refreshing to try something new.

For more information, or to book a table, call 01743 719100.

Photo: Andy

Polenta with grilled vegetables

Polenta and grilled vegetables

Polenta and grilled vegetables

This is a brilliantly simple summery dish. Just slice the polenta and vegetables, stick everything under the grill and voila – easy! You can even adapt this recipe to use on the barbecue for those sunny summer evenings.

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 10 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of polenta
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 pack of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of mushrooms
  • A handful of black olives
  • 1 packet of halloumi
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tsps of pesto
  • Fresh basil leaves

Method:

  1. Cut the polenta into slices, so that each slice is about 1cm thick.
  2. Lay the polenta slices on a baking tray, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  3. Put the polenta under the grill on a low heat and grill until it starts to turn golden. Turn the slices over when they start to brown.
  4. While watching the polenta, cut the vegetables and halloumi into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Toss the vegetables and halloumi in olive oil and season well.
  6. Remove the polenta from the grill and keep warm in the oven.
  7. Spread the vegetables and halloumi on a baking tray and grill until the vegetables have softened.
  8. Mix the tomatoes and pesto in a saucepan over a gentle heat and season well.
  9. Lay the warm polenta slices on to plates and arrange the vegetables and halloumi over the top.
  10. Finish by spooning over the tomato and pesto sauce and garnish with the basil leaves.

Lovely with a chilled glass of rosé…

Photo: Harald Walker

Quote of the day

Quote

“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.”

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel Prize-winning novelist (1904 – 1991)

Launch of Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

A Cardiff Food Charter was launched at a Sustainable Food City conference event at Cardiff University last week.

The charter aims to promote a diverse and sustainable food culture in the city and get more people buying local Welsh produce. It also hopes to provide a framework for access to healthy, environmentally friendly food, as well as building a strong local economy.

The charter’s development has been inspired by the success of similar food charters in other parts of the UK, such as Plymouth and Bristol. It has also taken inspiration from overseas projects, such as the Cowichan Food Charter in Canada.

The charter asks people in Cardiff to play their part by cooking more meals from scratch, wasting as little as possible and buying food from independent retailers. It also encourages businesses to serve healthy and sustainable food to their employees, to buy more local food and to encourage staff to grow, cook and eat fresh food together.

During the launch event, there were presentations and workshops from a wide variety of people including local food activists, action groups, academics, food businesses and government representatives.

The next stage will be to identify funding to set up a Cardiff Food Policy Council which will encourage more businesses, institutions and individuals to sign up to the Food Charter and to oversee Cardiff’s future development as a Sustainable Food City.

Video: Cowichan Green