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

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

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

Riverside Community Market Association

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Vegetable stall at Riverside market

Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?

But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?

Preconceptions

Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”

He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”

Social enterprise

Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.

Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”

Weather dependent

However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent.  Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.

“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.

Innovative

The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”

Two new stalls have recently joined the Riverside market. Greens of Glastonbury is a traditional farmhouse cheesemaker, while cnwd is based near Carmarthen and produces patés and terrines.

For more information, visit the RCMA website.

Pancake day

Pancakes

Pancakes

Lent is supposed to be a time of abstinence. A time when we give up luxury and over-indulgence for a simpler, more meagre way of life.

Unfortunately, instead of encouraging me to empty my cupboards of all sugary and fatty foods, Shrove Tuesday just reminds me of how much I like pancakes..!

Every year, when tucking into sugar-sprinkled, lemon-drizzled pancakes, I ponder why I only make them on this one, isolated day of the calendar.

The Americans enjoy piles of syrup-coated pancakes for breakfast. The French tuck into freshly made crepes on the streets on Paris. So this Lent, I plan to give up not eating pancakes…

Here are a few of my favourite pancake fillings:

1. Raspberries and blueberries

Feel better about yourself by offsetting the fat and grease with some healthy, fresh fruit! Just sprinkle the berries over the pancake and dust with icing sugar.

2. Banana and honey

A naturally sweet combination. Fold chopped banana into the pancake and drizzle with some runny honey. Tasty with a spoon of Greek yoghurt.

3. Pear and chocolate

Caramelise the pear in red wine and sugar and fold into the pancake before grating dark chocolate over the top. Deliciously self-indulgent.

4. Strawberries and maple syrup

Sweet and fruity. Chop fresh strawberries on to the pancake and drizzle with maple syrup. Enjoy with a spoon of vanilla ice cream.

5. Lemon and sugar

The original and the best. It just can’t be beaten. And believe me, I’ve experimented. I’ve gone through the crazy days of banana and nutella, but I always come crawling back to the old favourite. Although controversially, I do quite like to add a squeeze of orange to the lemon juice.

Photo: Jessica Spengler

Vegetarian Food Studio

Vegetarian Food Studio

Vegetarian Food Studio

Described in the Vegan Wales guide as “the best place in Wales for vegans to eat out,” this restaurant had a lot to live up to.

Vegetarian Food Studio looks somewhat unassuming from the outside. Nestled between a printing shop and a newsagent on Penarth Road, it resembles an old-fashioned café, but don’t let looks deceive you.

Award-winning

As you walk inside, you’ll notice that the walls are absolutely plastered in awards: The Guardian Food award, the Vegetarian Society Best Restaurant, the South Wales Echo Top Ten Eco-Friendly Restaurants, the list goes on… And this charming, quirky restaurant more than deserves every one of its nominations.

The restaurant is run by the Patel family and has a warm, friendly atmosphere. Raj Patel said: “My son Neil started cooking at the age of eight and has never looked back.”

Value for money

The menu is exceptionally varied and, as a vegetarian who is used to having a choice of only one or two suitable dishes on a menu, I found it very difficult to decide what to order! Luckily, the waiters are clearly used to this and have made life easy by creating the Gujarati Thali Special, which lets the inexperienced and the indecisive try a little bit of everything.

This was also excellent value, as we were able to try two starters, the curry of the day, rice, daal, rotli, poppadoms and a sweet dish for £5.99. The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, but you can bring your own for a £1 corkage charge.

The starters were delicious. We had bateta wada (potato fried with coriander and spices) and mixed vegetable petis (crispy potato balls filled with peas and spices.) These were mild and contrasted well with the spicier daal and curry.

Rich and spicy

The curry of the day was corn and patra nu saak, which was sweetcorn cooked in a thick tomato and peanut sauce. This is not something I would have chosen to order, as I couldn’t imagine sweetcorn and peanuts going well together, but in fact, the sweet, salty and spicy flavours thoroughly complemented one another.

The daal was spicy and rich in flavours. Mr Patel explained that it is cooked in a traditional curry pot, which allows the rich flavours of the spices and vegetables to infuse. It was served with rotli (flat bread made from wheat flour.) My only complaint was that these were very filling and maybe a bit heavy to be served in addition to the rice.

Sweet and aromatic

The sweet dish was a gulab jamun, which is a deep-fried dough ball, soaked in sugar syrup. The syrup was sweet and aromatic, with hints of saffron, cardamom and rose-water.

All in all, it was a magnificent meal in a warm, friendly setting. Mr Patel takes a genuine interest in every one of his customers, which is shown in the array of gifts displayed on the walls, including an Aussie hat, signed by his first ever Australian customers.

Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012

Vegetarian Food Studio has been nominated for the Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012. However, in previous years, they have been unable to win, as they refused to cook meat for the competition.

Mr Patel said: “I don’t see why we should be obliged to cook meat. We have been told we have to cook with Welsh lamb, but I don’t see why we can’t use vegetables that have been grown in Wales, like potatoes or onions.”

To vote for Vegetarian Food Studio, visit the Welsh Curry House of the Year site.