Monday, 24 December 2007

Pre-Christmas soup

I am about to go to Stansted Airport. Once again, like many times before, I am checking my luggage, hoping that is not too heavy, look at my passport to check the expire date and check that each Christmas present is safe and it’s not going to crush during the journey.
I made myself a breakfast soup (yes insane I know), to make sure that I don’t have to rely on the airport Prêt a Manger, and in a kind of last attempt to have something healthy before my parent’s lovely starchy approach-olive oil showered food, (delicious but hard work to digest when you only sit on the sofa and chat all day).

Cook in boiling water some soba noodles and at the end rinse them under cool water.

At the same time heat up about one half bowl of water per person and use this to prepare vegetable soup. I used: baby leeks carrots and cabbage, I added some Wakame seaweed, and a couple of shitake mushrooms.
Towards the end I added grated ginger and few drops of toasted sesame oil. I turned off the heat and added a few drops of Tamari.
I put noodles in the bowl and just poured over the soup.

After this my fridge does not contain any more veg from 2007!

See you in the new year

Saturday, 8 December 2007

I give you my cookie if you give me your pickle

It’s probably my job that is making me so allergic to shopping, as I have to “buy” stuff everyday so a Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street is my idea of hell.
I wish I was consuming less then what I am and have a more clutter free existence, but I am aware that this is not going to happen so easily.

This post would have been perfect on the 24th on November this year, on the Buy Nothing Day, oh well it comes a bit late but just put the date in your diary as it’s happening every year on the last Saturday of November.

Well we have bought very little today as I was at the Good Festive food swap but we ate a lot!
It was so much fun, I brought some mini sourdough bread rolls, some focaccia, macro cookies (recipe below) and gomasio.

I brought back:
Vegan cookies, bread, pickled pumpkin, fresh organic rosemary and bay leaves, vegan lemon cake, a bottle of elderflower vinegar, some lovely dried pear rings and some seeds to make salad on my balcony!

There was so much passion in the preparation that each person put in what they brought, especially the girl that did the pickled pumpkin attached a little bag with the story of the pumpkin variety and the story of how it arrived to the UK!
Everyone was really friendly, some people had an allotment and some just a good recipe, all were willing to share and chat.

Mulled wine kept me warm, it was an awful rainy afternoon, and I can’t imagine a better way to spend it.

Very "swappable" oatmeal currant cookies,
adapted from an Oliver Cowmeadow recipe

2 cups oat ( I used normal porridge one)
1/2 cup wholeweat flour
2 tbs sesame oil
2tbs maple syrup
3 tbs dried currant
1/4 spoon seasalt
1/4 spoon cinammon

Cover the raisin with water (1/2 a cup) bring to the boil and simmer for 5 min.
Mix dry ingredients and add the oil, add the maple syrup and the currants with the cooking liquid, add more water if necesary to have a thick batter. Oil a baking tray and shape the cookies (1/2 cm thick).

Bake for 30 min/180 °C

you can now swap them with the neighboor, post them to your old friend or just eat them while you spend a lazy Sunday reading a book.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Food Swap 8 December Stoke Newington (London that is!)

What a wonderful thing to look forward to! On 8th of December i am going to parteciapate to: the The festive Good Food Swap-in Stoke Newington organized by growing Communities.

It is a idea that enables you to exchange any product that you can prepare yourself (baked, canned, picked from your allotment etc..) with other people from the community, something that I strongly believe in is exchanging skills and stuff and not just passively consuming.

You can drop off your produce either at the Farmers Market during the day on Sat 8th December 10am -2.30pm at William Patten School on Stoke Newington Church Street at St Pauls Church Hall (where the swap will be held) between12pm-4pm.

Once you have registered and labelled your produce and received your producer number all you then have to do is come back at 6pm for the start of the swap!

I was planning to prepare some gomasio with nori seaweed, some mini sourdough bread, focaccia some macrobiotic cookies.... any other idea?

If you are interested because you live locally or if you just would like to copy the idea click here

Photo:Children offer us pine nuts in Ulan Bataar (Mongolia)

wholeweat conchiglie with celeriac and seaweeds (apologies for the picture*)

Last night I came home from work at a ridiculous time, I managed to do some shopping at lunchtime (thanks to the fabulous Portobello market!) once I got home I just cooked all the vegetable at once, but it was too late to have anything more substantial then a miso soup. Eating after nine o’clock makes me feel tired the morning after, and it doesn’t really do for me.

Tonight I have a few almost-ready ingredients and I played with them and experimented pasta with celeriac.

I had:
Half a diced celeriac that I baked with 4 garlic cloves till tender
2 tbsp of hiziki seaweed soaked and boiled for 20 minutes
2 tbsp silken tofu
1 tbs nutritional yeast (but it can be skipped if you don’t like it)
200 grm wholeweat conchiglie
2 tbsp extravergin olive oil

Heat up the oil in a large pan, add the celeriac and garlic and the seaweed, cook till very tender, season with salt according to taste.
Cream half of the sauce in a food processor with the tofu (don’t add more then necessary to make the texture creamy!). Transfer back in the pan with the rest.

Cook the pasta in salty water till al dente, drain and transfer into the sauce, stir till the pasta is all covered in sauce and add sprinkle with yeast.
This sauce is filling and delicious, it has a sweat taste and I believe that my Italian friends are never going to try it… it’s too much of a twist on the holy Italian pasta!

Together with parsnip celeriac is one of those vegetables that I never tried before moving to London, I have to say that it may be looking completely unappealing but it is great to make soups, stews and roasted.
The macrobiotic approach of “local and in season” (but also just common sense) is forcing me to think about new ways to prepare all the british winter vegetables, so expect more parsnip, kale, carrots and celeriac in the next few days… and no no tomatoes or aubergines I am afraid!

Days are so dark in November that my pictures are getting worst, my apologies if they don't look tempting, but they are still very good dishes!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

My broccoli cream is really the best, FACT

November evenings were made for soups. Cycling back from work in the mad traffic on Euston road the idea of a cream of roasted vegetables, a soup of carrot and coriander or a miso one seem like a prize after an hard day.
When I was a child I dreaded sundays because of the awful meat broth that together with Minestrone was the only soup my mum seemed to know.

These days for me the winter vegetables are an endless resource and making a soup is so quick and rewarding that there is really no excuse to buy a supermarket's one.

My broccoli cream:

2 medium broccoli cut into small pieces(I use the whole of the broccoli)
1 sliced parsnip
2 small white onions
1 tbsp of extravirgin oive oil
1 tbsp of caraway seeds
1 tbsp rice flour

Sautee' the thinly sliced onion till transparent, add the vegetables and enough water to cover them, bring to the boil and lower the flame.
Cook till soft, add the flour, salt and olive oil and either transfer into food processor or use a hand one.
Serve with caraway seed and a slice of sourdough bread.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The Bento Box

I don’t know what is all about but it seems that all the food blogs are written by people that are working in offices, that dread their canteen or café and that bring their own food to work in their bento box.

I personally prefer the ones that are filled with rice on the bottom and some pickles and veg on the top layer, I don’t like to bring a thermos with the soup, but today my soup in a jar spilled all over my stuff so I better re-consider this…
My Lunch box is from the Japan Center yes it is my favourite place and I try to go as much as I can (if you have read any of my previous post I am sure that you know it)!

Also if you are not just a foodie and you are interested in design and fashion to buy or just to browse, the JC it is dangerously near Dover Street market… a more expensive side of Japan!

Anyway, here my Bento Box is filled with sauerkraut and blenched Chinese cabbage on top, and parsnip on the bottom layer, a slice of Sauer dough (I am baking again!) and off to work!

Baked yummy parsnip:

Slice the parsnips in thick slices
Place slices in a baking dish add ½ inch of water and 1 tablespoon of shoyu over the slices
Bake 200C° for 35 to 40 mins till soft

The parsnip cooked in this way is so yummy that you’d wish your lunchbox were bigger!
Would you like to get an ide on how to pack your food? Some people are really clever

Sunday, 4 November 2007

On a macrobiotic support and how to love a winter squash

I have joined a yahoo group that I find very useful and I can’t wait to share it with the world, it’s full of good suggestions recipes and interesting stuff about macrobiotic, as that is a field where you can never know enough, please join:
and you will receive their newsletter, it’s called modernday macrobiotic and it has been setup by Simon Brown (that wrote the gret book with the same title) it's great as nobody would insult you if you ask silly questions and there are some very intelligent and interesting people, a pleasure to read!

In one of the newsletters there was a recipe that I thought would warm me up in these chilli evening (we have managed not to turn he heating on yet!!):
Squash and sauerkrut:
Dice winter squash, 
Add a 0,5 cm of water to a heavy pot, add few drops of sesme oil. 
Add a small piece of rinsed kombu and a pinch of salt.
Cover, and bring to a boil on a high until the squash is soft, then just bifore turning off the flame add 2 tablespoon of sauerkraut (for two people) mix and serve, it is important that you don't "cook" the sauerkraut as you would kill all the ferments.
This is a simple dish but people love it because of the sweet and sour combination! I served it with rice and leeks with barley miso…

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A fresh start: my autumn

Autumn is an incredible season, I never used to like it that much, and I think it’s really the fact that I am getting older. I wake up really early in the morning and cycle along the canals to my office, sometimes it doesn’t even seems to be in London.
The sky is of such a deep blue everything seem more clean and intense, not just the colour, but the air and the smells, even cycling is like a new adventure every morning (I am happy I didn’t move into an houseboat though!)
I invited some friend over last Saturday, and I offered them a dessert that has got a bit the mood and the colours of this season, it’s a great one as it has no added sugar, but it’s deliciously spicy.

Poached pears with raspberries and Vanilla:

Cooked fruit is the nicest way to enjoy it with the weather getting chillier
All you need is to peel some medium size pears, and core them, fill them with roasted and chopped hazelnuts and fresh raspberries (my pears were a bit small)

In a large pan add 2 cups of apple juice, a tablespoon of vanilla essence, a cardamom pod and some cinnamon sticks.
Add the pears and put on high flame.
Let it simmer for 25 minutes (first 10 with a lid on and then without to evaporate the excess liquid).

Sunday, 19 August 2007

London for fussy eaters, or how to order vegan food in non vegan places

I wanted to write about the difficulties that you encounter when you try to be fussy in London.
I love to read the posts of othr blogs and how people come to London for holiday and they find it the best place for vegans, wheat intollerant, raw food eaters, or whatever other fussy food habit or requirement.
When you do live in London in fact it can happen that is not your turn to choose where to dine or have breakfast and your are likely to go out with people that are not veg, especially if you don't choose your friends because of what they eat!
In Italy I can always get away with pasta al pomodoro, in the London's pubs it's a bit harder.
So I went to Princess to have breakfast with a couple of friends hoping to find something vegan on the menu.Princess is a gastro pub (I know the sound of this word i horrid) and there is a reastaurant upstairs.
It was a lovely Sunday early afternoon and the idea to go to a pub wasn't coming from me but I accepted as I have heard so much about the place that I thought I give it a try.
Clearly there isn't anything on the blackboard that I can/want to eat, everything was meat or fish or dairy based.
I ask the waiter:
"Hi have you got anything vegan"
he is incredibly hadsome and looks at me in disbelief

"just put something together with any vegetable that you like, please" I say while dreading the thought of the transparent iceberg lettuce, the ultra cold tomatoes slice and the cheap balsamic vinegar.

Well I couldn't be more wrong. When the lovely waiter comes out with the vegetables I am actually rather impress by what was put together. A pleasent combination of different textures with french beans, different leaves rosted sweet potato and vinaigrette with dijon mustard as a dressing.
The bill was also very good as it was only eight Pounds for the salad and a juice!

The Princess
76 Paul Street,
London EC2A 4NE
tel: 020 7729 9270

Princess passed the fussy eater test!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Impressive mixed rice salad for your summer party

Have you ever seen those mixed rice bags in the healthshops and wondered what to do with it?
I made a version of a popular wild rice salad from the Candle Cafe Cookbook, with a slight variation.
On Sunday I was invited to a Sicilian themed barbeque, with all the people I went on holiday with.
A nice bunch of people reproducing the atmosphere of a "Baglio" (Sicilian courtyard) in a lovely garden in Hackney.
The pressure was on as my Italian friends are quite good when it comes to traditional, so there was caponata, peperonata and insalata pantesca (a great potato salad with capers and cherry tomatoes). I decided to go for something with a citrusy flavour but just not as classic (I am not very good with with traditional recipes, and I wish I was!)
So from the Candle Cafe' cookbook, but with a twist:
Impressive Mixed Rice salad

1 cup mixed wild rice (long,camargue, wild)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (roasted in a dry skillet)
1/2 cup cranberries rehidrated in warm water
the grated zest of 1 organic orange
the juice of two organic lemons
1/4 cup of shoyu or tamari

Not very difficult... cook the rice in 2 parts of water (my variety needed 40 minutes) and add the other ingredients, voila'! (Unfortunately not very macro either!)

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Back to the UK tofu

Back from a great holiday in a little paradise location in Sicily, I feel really rejuvenated and the sun incredibly enough is shining in London too, even if it’s not really hot.
I have neglected my blog just as much as my little basil plant, that today ended up in the bin, but my resolution is to add lots of recipes in Aug/Sep
Hopefully I will have to cook for quite a few picnics so it’s going to be interesting..
On Monday, after my allucinatory journey home from Stansted, very few hours sleep and a full on day in the office, I was ready to make my own dinner again but nothing too complicated so here’s the recipe, quick and summery:

Back to the UK Tofu
1 cake firm tofu
½ a cucumber
1 piece ginger
some alpha-alpha sprouts
1 tbs mirin
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
50 grams pistachio nuts

Peel and deseed the cucumber, cut the cucumber and ginger julienne, mix with the alpha-alpha sprouts.
Mix mirin, soy sauce and vinegar.
Place the vegetables on top of the tofu and pour the sauce over.
Grind the pistachio (leave them a bit coarse) and sprinkle on top.

It's so funny that I thought I share this.
It was 43°C in Palermo, Sicily last Sunday, too hot for anybody... even for these guys

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Notting Hill for fussy eaters (and ambitious cooks) – part 1

When you start working in a new area of London it’s always very exciting. As well as the new workplace there is also a new area to discover, and this can be really refreshing.
After working for three years in Battersea and enjoying one of the most beautiful parks in London I now work in the trendy Notting Hill.
The Notting Hill described by the brilliant novel "The Lonely Londoner" by Sam Selvon, (a recollection of the Caribbean that moved to London in the late 1940s) is just a memory, now its population is mainly ultra rich, fashion conscious and the houses are amongst the most expensive in the whole of London.
However the area is beautiful and Portobello Market is still one of my favourite things (both the vintage and the veggie) and for people who like to cook there are two gem addresses:

Books for Cooks 
4 Blenheim Crescent
W11 1NN

Tel 020-7221-1992
Fax 020-7221-1517

It’s the best place to find inspiration (it has also a lovely little café’ at the back), because let’s face it, Amazon is very often a cheaper option but with the cooking books you have to fall in love with.

Just opposite there is another wonderful shop where you can buy all your spices.
I buy Juniper Berries that are hard to find anywhere else and dried organic pears and that are the little treat that I buy in my worryingly short lunch break

The Spice Shop
1 Blenheim Crescent
W11 2EE
Telephone: 020 7221 4448
Fax: 020 7229 1591

And if you are just trying to find a vintage outfit and you find yourself starving on Portobello Road?
A reasonably cheap takeaway (really simple wholesome food) where you can buy vegetarian/vegan food but you have to hope in a sunny day as this place is take away only...

The Grain Shop
269a Portobello Road
W11 1LR
(sugarless cakes, brown rice, veggies, and natural juices)

… more to come!

Monday, 25 June 2007

Tofu and fresh herbs tart

I am getting really upset about the "English summer", this is becoming like a big joke, it seems like it's never going to stop raining and I almost got used to go to work by bike and get inevitably wet.
If we have to look at the bright side I could say that this weather gives me the chance to bake that is one of my favourite cooking methods.

Ingredients for the shell:
50 grams buckwheat flour
50 grams wholewheat flour
50 grams all purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
4 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried majorain
1 cup water (or less, add the water slowly till achieved the right consistence)

For the filling:
1 silken tofu pack
2 tbsp soy milk
Fresh herbs: Basil, terragon, oregano, chive etc.
1 bunch chopped spring onion
tamari to season

Mix all the ingredients for the shell and create a dough (elastic but not too wet). On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough into a 3 mm thin pastry and fit into a 10- or 11-inch round tart pan with a removable rim. Prick dough all over with a fork.
Preheat the oven to 180 C°, bake tart shell for 10 minutes, or until almost cooked through but still pale.
In a food processor blend the ingredients for the filling and stir in the herbs at the end.
Pour the ingredients in the shell and bake for 20 minutes (the filling should set).

Sarah brought a slice to work today and she thinks that it could go well with chutney and salad.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A meat substitute: homemade Seitan

In Italy when you turn into a vegetarian you eat a lot of seitan, as it’s probably the closest thing you can get to meat.
In the UK this is not really popular, and I have to explain fairly often that what I am eating is not chicken…

Seitan and watercress in brown mini pita bread

I used to buy it from health shops at ridiculous prices, but once I arrived in London I just stopped having it.
Thanks to a lovely food blog written by Vera a Vegan girl from Naples that has a brilliant blog (in Italian).
I started making my own.

Seitan is a meat substitute, very high in proteins. It is a meat looking product obtained by the wheat gluten that is left once that the starch has been washed away.

• 1 kg wholewheat flour (I use the Waitrose one and it works well for me)
• Salt
• Shoyu
• Herbs to taste, and fresh vegetables to make fresh stock
The objective is to make quite elastic dough, by an energetic kneading; the dough should be compact but soft.

Leave the dough to rest for one hour.

Fill a big bowl wit water and immerse your dough (cold water is better), try to massage the dough and keep it together…
Change water often till it becomes clear; you can use two bowls as this makes the job easier.
Once that the process is finished you end up with a sticky ball of gluten.
In the meantime prepare the stock with fresh vegetables, water (I added kombu seaweed too.)
Wrap the dough in muslin so tight that it doesn’t fall apart and boil it for 30/40 minutes.

You can now slice your seitan and use it like if it was a cold meat, or a sliced tofu…
I quickly sauté a couple of slices with garlic, added some soy sauce and used it as a filling for a sandwich with watercress and mustard.
From a dough you can get a reasonable quantity for the week so if you are having a lazy week (like me) you can just grill a slice, or even make ragu’ (bolognaise sauce) with it etc.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Pressed salads

I just moved to a new flat, and I have been too busy to look after my blog.
I haven’t really been cooking either, and in the past three weeks this is the first time I can relax on a Sunday, buy some ingredients and put the apron on! It’s nice that time when you start feeling home, in my life I moved to so many different places (certainly more than 20) that this feeling is rather familiar to me.

Today I prepared the pressed salads, which are a fermented dish and a classic of macrobiotic cooking, they are going to last me for a while and they’d help my tummy when I have a drink too much (I know I shouldn’t but these are tough times!).
I finely sliced some vegetables: cucumber, red spring onion, radish, celery and carrots. Everything was seasonal and British, a part from the red spring onion that were French and I bought them at Waitrose as I have never seen them before. I should have taken a picture, as they were so pretty!
I put the slices in a glass container and covered them with a liquid made from half shoyu, half water that has been brought to the boil for 30 second and then left to cool down to room temperature.
I put a little saucer on top and then some weight (a bag of pulses would do) so that the vegetables are all under the liquid.
Normally I leave them out and just put them in the fridge the day after. I find that they go nicely with boiled grains, silken tofu, and they are they ideal start of a meal. Sometimes I add some grated ginger to add a little zing ☺
I am preparing quite a few things to have in the fridge to take to work; it’s great that you can quickly add them to your brown rice to take to the office. So to all the people that ask me how can I always find time to cook my own lunch, Id like to ask them, how can you eat that Tesco sandwich or that sad salad every day?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Semi whole spelt pasta with Hiziki seaweed and capers.

When I bring my lunchbox to work, the most common qustion is always: “where do you find the time to do that?”
I believe I just plan ahead and while I have a shower, make a phone call or answer to my private emails at home I simply cook some brown rice, everything else is more or less quick, ok, there is the sourdough, but that’s normally a weekend thing anyway ^_____^
For pulses I just put them in water before I go to bed, and steaming or blenching are two cooking methods that make everything faster!
I have to admit that when I come home from the office sometimes I just want to eat immediately, but still I want something healthy and that doesn’t make me feel tired or bloated after, so here’s a good one:

for two people (or for dinner+lunchbox for the day after)

½ cup hiziki (Hijiki) seaweed
200 gr whole spelt spaghetti
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablesppon shoyu or tamari soy sauce
a handful of capers
Coarse crystal sea salt

Soak the seaweed for 25 minutes (it will double the volume), then drain I and boil it in water for 25 minutes.
Finely chop he garlic, heat up the olive oil and fry the garlic till pale golden, stir in the capers, the seaweed, and the shoyu ,turn the heat to very low and let it simmer for other five minute with a lid on.
Boil the pasta in salted water, till “al dente”, and drain.
Stir the spaghetti into the seaweed sauce.
Serve hot.

My pasta is from Probios

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Sourdough bread

When you follow Macrobiotic, you mainly eat whole grains. Whole grains are more nutritious than cracked, milled, or flaked ones.
People that eat wholegrain hardly ever have cravings as their energy is released slower, 60% of my diet is based on brown rice, millet, wheat, amaranth, quinoa, as this is the food I feel is natural for me to eat and I can have it every meal without failing.
I eat bread sporadically and this is one of the several reasons why I like to live in the UK, in Italy there is just bread everywhere, and if it’s not bread is focaccia or pizza and either you decide you want to live an ascetic life and don’t go out anymore or you just cope with it : )
Having said this even I sometimes feel like making bread, but I just find the smell of commercial yeast such a put off…
So I made my own sourdough.
I love the fact that in Italian sourdough is called Pasta Madre that means “mother dough”, and indeed this is going to be the mother of your bread for (hopefully) long long time. The commercial sourdough bread is outrageously expansive and you can find it in natural food shops or in very few local bakeries but making in your house is a complete different experience.
The idea is: flour+water+warm temperature= bacteria = natural yeast = bread that is easy to digest.
How many people auto diagnosed themselves wheat intolerant? But are they really or is the yeast in those horrible commercial English bread loafs? (they even come in a plastic bag… yuck)
I have got no intention of writing my recipe for the sourdough as the Internet oozes with suggestions and very good step-by-step recipe.
Personally I am fascinated about this as I am about any fermented food. I just find the whole bacteria culture an amazing natural phenomenon, so I am a big fan of Miso, sauerkraut, umeboshi and beer ^____^

So this is the recipe that I follow from egullet, and now I have been using my starter twice, and it works wonderfully, my only suggestion is “love your starter”.

Dan Lepard is my baking hero.

Have fun and bake! (The weather is going to be miserable this Bank Holiday so you may as well turn the oven on!)

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The recycled house and recycled burgers

Last weekend I had a great day out visiting one of the artist’s open houses at the Dulwich festival.
The house was beautifully and eclectically furnished with items found in skips, charity shops, carboot sales, so virtually a house made gorgeous without any environmental impact.
I had a tour of the house, the couple that made it are these very inspiring people, that created the most elegant of places, they are planning to live in a caravan for some months travelling around Europe with their two daughters, but for now they enjoyed this paradise, just few stops away from London Bridge.
I loved how everything was made of old bits including the shed in the garden and the girls’ room.

info on the festival

Inspired by this visit I put together everything that was in the fridge to make these tasty recycled burgers:
1 cup of cooked mung beans
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 celery
1 onion
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp buckwheat flour

Quickly sautéed the diced vegetables in a lightly oiled wok pan (you can use a little brush to make sure you use just enough)
Cook the vegetables till they are cooked but still crunchy.
Make patties with all the ingredient and use a little flour to prevent them sticking.
Bake on a lightly greased oven dish for 20 minutes or until they are golden on both sides.

I served them with a tahini dressing (2 tbsp water 1 tahini mixed thoroughly till smooth) and pressed salads with radish and cucumber with greated ginger.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Breakfast for the day after

Imagine this: You cycle to the office (45 mins) you eat some rice at your desk and work non-stop for 8 hours, you cycle back for other 40 mins and you grab the nastiest falafel on the way, you get into the gig completely sold out with the most large and enthusiastic crowd, you cycle back home and it starts raining… Your ballerina pumps are like two sponges, you hair is dripping water everywhere, but you just want to go to bed.
What will save you on the day after when you have ten meetings and a zillion emails to answer to?
Of course is the breakfast that quite wisely you planned ahead ☺

I love my breakfast and if I am tired or hungover (the latter happenining less and less as I age!) this is the one meal I take very seriously.

Brown rice breakfast:
1 cup brown rice
1 sachet agar-agar
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoon dried currant
2 tablespoon barley malt
Cinnamon and cardamom to taste

Boil the brown rice in 3 cups of water till it’s very very soft
Soak the currant in lukewarm water for 10 minutes than drain
Place soymilk and agar-agar in a bowl add rice, currants, malt, cinnamon and cardamom, mix
Bake in a preheated oven (180C°) for 45 minutes.
Let it cool for half an hour before serving.

Wednesday night @ Scala: The Battles

Monday, 14 May 2007

The Ghost Soup

While my friends are emailing me saying how hot Italy is at the moment, we switched the heating hot for a couple of hour as the house was really becoming a freezer.
For the rule of yin and yang now I fancy only hot dishes, soups etc.. but being already summertime I quite like to include some raw greens in them.
Yesterday it was a rainy Sunday, a bit depressing really,so I thought I cook something stylish and tempting to lift the moral up. From the amazing “the best of tofu” I got this recipe that was warming and looked absolutely stunning.
You need:
1 tofu (I used a firm one but the silken is more appropriate)
1 pack shimeji mushroom a 1 enoki mushroom, they had them both at our local Vietnamese shop, but I think they are fairly easy to find in any Asian shop, waitrose has them as well (about 1.5£ each)
1 bundle chive
4 cups soymilk
Soy sauce

Note------ if you are not vegetarian you can add dashi stock to the broth and you can find it in Japanese stores

Dice the tofu, trim the end of the mushrooms and separate them.
Heat the soymilk, but be careful, it scorches really easily so you need have a low flame. When it comes to the boil add the tofu and the chopped chives. Reduce the flame again and cook till the chive is tender but still a bit crunchy. Serve hot.

To find the ingredients for this soup you just need to live near an Asian shop, but the great thing is tha those mushrooms are not even imported, they grow them in Britain! This soup is so easy to make and it’s so impressive that you can serve it even to the snobbiest of guests!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Natto the “croce e delizia" of the Japanese food

Natto is fermented soybeans and is a traditional Japanese food, and a Macrobiotic’s favourite.

I call it sorrow and joy “croce e delizia” in Italian i.e. "cross and delight" ("cross" as in the sense of being crucified), this because Natto is one of the most complete food, but the smell is quite strong and can be found unpleasant. Japanese people have been eating natto for thousands of years, and they are well aware of its beneficial properties, in Europe Natto is not very popular and the smell is probably the main reason.
The funniest thing happened to me in Paris a couple of moths ago, we ordered a portion of natto in a Japanese restaurant, the waiter looked at us in disbelief hesitating to write the order down, we insisted and he went into the kitchen, a bit later his manager came out asking if I knew what natto was, I nodded, and the glorious food arrived, all the sushi chefs were giggling while I was tucking in!
I had a naughty weekend, it was my birthday and I wasn’t very good, I drunk quite a few pints and slept little, so I had the need for some good food, and I prepared a proper balanced meal.

Mix natto well to get the sticky texture (I warm it up a little), then add shoyu and serve it on very hot brown rice. You can add some gomasio to the rice (toasted sesame seeds and salt)
Veg: sautéed fresh garlic and oyster mushrooms
Steamed spinaches with pureed umeboshi and sesame oil.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

The Almost Summer Dinner

It feels like summer is arrived! And so are the British asparagus…

Forget your supermarket ones, they are flown over from Kenya and you can find them all year round, they cost a fortune and they just don’t taste as nice.
I bought a nice bunch of organic Asparagus for 2 Pounds, not too bad.
I quickly steamed them, and served with vinaigrette of chopped parsley, mint, and lemon juice, they go very well with grilled polenta.
I know that Asparagus is not really a macrobiotic veg, but I like it ☺
I saved the tough bottom end that you would normally discard and I am going to add them to soups, as macrobiotic teaches you shouldn’t waste any food!

I even grilled some garlic, in the simplest way, just chopping off the top, with a drizzle of olive oil, in the oven for 25 min (but this depends according to the garlic size)

Friday, 27 April 2007

the Ugly Pie and the no sugar debate

Ugly Pie Is an wholemeal apple pie and it’s completely sugarless and vegan!
It is a recipe adapted from the famous Candle Cafe’ cookbook:

1 cup brown flour
1 cup light brown flour (waitrose)
1 teaspoon round cinnamon
1 pinch of sea salt
1/3 of a cup of cold safflower oil
1/3 cup ice water

4 cups lovely British apple gala
3 tbsp corn malt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp light brown flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tbsp round nutmeg
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 180 C°

Mix flour cinnamon and salt in a bowl, add the oil and mix. Add the cold water while mixing continuously till you have firm dough. Roll the dough into a bowl and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Form two balls with the dough, roll one into a circle and press it into a pie pan (the layer has to be around 0,5 cm thick) trim but leave 1 cm all around.
In a large bowl mix apple, malt, lemon juice, spices and flour, add this filling to the pie shell. Roll the second ball so you cover the pie and crimp the edges.
Cut some slits on the crust, mine looked more like scars ☺
Bake for 1 ½ hour

I wanted to take this to the office but there is an American girl and I don’t think she’d appreciate a pie that is not proper, but believe me it was a very good one!

Sometimes people ask me why I gave up sugar and what can I eat as a “treat” I find difficult not to try to convince them about trying. You should never tell the people what to eat, it Is an annoying boring conversation and it’s not going to lead anywhere ☺
I just think that sugar is not a natural thing to eat. Refined sugar is indeed refined, therefore not natural. Every sort of nutrients is lost and it is very much a poison. In the UK it is very hard to eat out or buy something at the supermarket that doesn’t contain sugar: breakfast cereal, sauces and dips, bread etc. The result of me eating sugar is tragic, I have no energy by the end of the day and I just want to seat on the sofa and have more sweets!
Since December I try to avoid every type of refined sugar and honey and still manage to have quite a lot of yummy things! I am full of energy the whole day and this is such a great improvement :)

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Scrambled tofu with enoki mushrooms

1 cake firm tofu
100 grms carrots
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dark tahini
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp water
some basil leaves

Remove the base of the enoki mushrooms and break them into pieces.
Cut the carrots in 4 cm length batons.
Cut the tofu in cubes and boil for 2 minutes, transfer to a cotton muslin in a colander, wrap the muslin and break in small pieces while squeezing out the water.
Heat the sesame oil in a wok; add the carrots and the enokii mushrooms and stir-fry. Crumble the tofu. Keep cooking and stirring, season with soy sauce and with tahini sauce (1 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp water)
Add the basil leaves.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

the perfect vegan pancake

It’s great to wake up early on a Saturday morning, Shoreditch is still asleep and the flat is so peaceful and quite.
I really fancied pancakes for a while now, so last night I made the batter and this morning in the unreal silence of a spring day I cooked them.
I followed the recipe of Michio Kushi, from the book ”The Macrobiotic Way”, an easy book that explains in a very understandable way how to approach macrobiotic, without making it sound like a Voodoo or a religion or something too abstract.
While I was preparing breakfast I remembered about the time when I was sharing a flat in Bologna, I was living with Fausto and we had always breakfast together in the weekend. Fausto used to improvise his very own pancakes, which he was very proud of. To be honest our fridge was so empty and we were so lazy that that bit of flour left in the drawer was always saving our life after a night out and too many drinks.
I don’t remember their taste at all but it was so wonderful to see Fausto improvising breakfast while singing away, always in playful mood.
My pancakes are a bit more “grown up” and the buckwheat flour makes them taste very much like the Brittany’s crepes “gallettes” as they call them.

1 cup buckwheat flour (grano saraceno)
½ cup wholewheat flour
a pinch of salt
1 ½ cup of water
Light sesame oil

Combine dry ingredients, add water mixing very well with a spoon and let the batter sit in a warm place.
This will make the batter ferment and the pancake will become lighter.

Lightly oil a skillet and heat. Place a small amount of batter on the skillet to form a round cake and fry over a medium flame, for 2/3 minutes or until the bottoms are golden and you can see bubbles popping on the surface. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden on both sides.

I served them with a blueberry sugarless jam and pumpkin compote with poppy seeds.
I wish Fausto was here having breakfast with me!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Quick Hiziki Salad

Last week I did panic buy hiziki (Hijiki) as soon as this lovely seaweed was back on the shelves of my local grocery.
I don't know who were the people that bought all their stock, as most of my friends would not know what to do with it.

Maybe some of my neighbours bought it when hangover, maybe they read something about the benefit that seaweeds could bring to you, the fact is for weeks there wasn't a single box on sight!

Well, if you are one of those that did buy them but you don't know how to use it, I am here to rescue the dusty box with this easy (=lazy) recipe.
Mind you, this is the most addictive of all the seaweeds!

½ cup of Hijiki
½ Tsp toasted sunflower seeds
½ Tsp black sesame seeds
1 Tsp of Sesame oil
1 Tsp of Tahini
1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
½ of a lemon
1 bunch spring onion

Soak hiziki (Hijiki) in bowl for 15 min; toast the sunflower seeds in a skillet.
Brush your wok wit a little sesame oil Turn on Wok to medium heat, add hijiki and seeds. Stir Fry for 3 minutes in the last 30 seconds add the shoyu then pour into bowl. Add Tahini, Lemon Juice and chopped spring onions.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Saturday morning

I am so sick of the Italian people moaning about the quality of the fruit and veg in London. I mean it's pretty obvious that if you want to cook only your aubergine "parmigiana" and if you just buy those fluorescent greens that have been travelling around the world more that you have, well keep on complaining.
But how far do you live from your local farmers market?I have a faboulous one near me in Stoke Newington and I try to go as often as I can, it's in a litle school yard and there aren't very many stalls but you can find surprisingly good products. Britan has got a variety of greens and very few are available in the supermarkets.
Today I bought:

purple sprouting (apparently the lasts of the season)
jerusalem artichoke (a lady told me a good way to prepare them I think I will post it tomorrow)
mustard frills
red mustard
wild rocket
and some lettuce

it all worked out about 8 pounds, so try something new today! (and possibly something that doesn't come wrapped in a kilo of plastic!

Stoke Newington farmers market:

I made a lovely salad with some of the greens I bought with a nice dressing ;
2 tablespoon dark tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar
2 tablespoon water

just mix vigorously till smooth, add some more water if you want a thinner dressing.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

tofu kebabs

Considering the sun is shining as if it were June, and that we are on
holiday, today I made a yummy holiday lunch!

Served with steamed bok choi and brown rice with toasted nori seaweed, these
tofu kebabs are delicious and easy to make.
We bought firm tofu (about 400 grams) and cut it into cubes. You can use
tofu found in organic or Asian shops; I prefer always the organic version.

1) Prepare a marinade with 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 4 tablespoon tamari o
shoyu (absolutely not the cheap soy sauce from the corner shop!), 3 garlic
cloves, 2 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar, 2 tablespoon apple juice, 2 fresh red
chillies. Blend all the ingredients to a smooth texture.

I went jogging and left the tofu in the marinade for about one hour,
obviously the longer you leave it for the tastier the result.

2) Bake for 30 minutes (180°C) in a baking tray, till brown on both sides. Set aside to cool.

3) Assemble the kebabs alternating a cube of cucumber and one of tofu.

Serve with a coconut sauce:
1/2 cup dark tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 fresh red chillie
2 tablespoons tamari
1 clove garlic

Blend until smooth.

Feel on holiday.

Today I played the last CD I bought, from Busdriver an excellent Hip Hop Album, with some incredibly catching rhymes, this has been a tasty Easter, I think this is a good candidate for album of the year...

Saturday, 7 April 2007

marinated tempeh and black venere rice, and a matinee (Sleeping Years)

Today I used a wonderful rice purchased on my last trip to the Veneto region
in Italy.
I was never happy travelling for my job, but I have to say when I was away,
I always bought a lot of regional products. Apparently, this wholegrain rice
was the first black variety in Europe. It has an amazing sandalwood scent
and reminds me of freshly baked bread. I just steamed it and served with
tempeh. My boyfriend is a really big fan of tempeh, especially now we have
learned to get the best out of it.

I prepared a marinade with 2 cups of apple juice, 2 tablespoons of maple
syrup, 2 tablespoons of liquefied ginger and 4 crushed garlic cloves. I left
it to marinate for one hour, just the time to go to a daylight concert at
the Union Chapel.

When I came back I baked the tempeh for 20 minutes (200°C) and top with
caramelized onions and sauerkraut.

I have been a bit lazy with the veggie, just lettuce this time :)
The gig at the chapel was very good and inspiring, and the EP was just a


The Muffins that never were

Yesterday I wanted to bake some muffins but I got them completely wrong!
I wanted to bring them to Phil and Clare, to thank them for cooking without using meat, dairy or eggs (I know I am a pain!) ☺, but I think I am justified considering I have to start with my new job next week, I am frightened!
So here’s the recipe as it was intended to be:

1 cup strong wholemeal Canadian flour (Waitrose)
1 cup light meal flour
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup soy milk
½ cup grated carrots
1 cup organic cold pressed sunflower oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon cardamom
¼ cup lemon juice
1 sachet natural yeast (from organic shop)
2 tablespoon dry roasted sunflower seeds (you can do t in a little skillet)

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another; pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, mixing without making the batter too smooth. Fold in the roasted sunflower seeds and the lemon zest.

Pour the batter in cupcake papers and bake in the preheated oven (180°C), for 25 minutes.

What went wrong? I had forgotten to put the yeast! Oh well they were edible (they are already disappeared 24 hr later)

A new obsession.. Tiajin Cabbage!

When we first moved to Shoreditch I was eating Vietnamese quite often, with Kingsland road just around the corner so we were eating there when we still had to unpack.
Now we cook almost always at home, but we buy quite a few ingredients in the Vietnamese shop that supplies the restaurant, the lady that owns it is so nice and helpful…
The thing that seems we can’t live without these days is this tjianjin preserved cabbage, which is a sort of dry sauerkraut pickled with garlic and salt. It is great to add to stir fries, fish or just to have on its own, the packaging is amazing and it’s very cheap (£1,80 for 600 grams!)

I will put up a recipe soon, I think that you can get it also in Chinatown, or on Mare street

Thursday, 5 April 2007

your japanese cooking for my italian

It’s 11:30 when Kazu turns up at my flat, I am so excited and I am so pleased to discover that he is such a polite and charming man.
after a rather scary inspection of my fridge, Kazu decides we are going to prepare two simple dishes that I knew but that he thinks I am not getting right. The positive side of this embarrassing intrusion in my kitchen is that K compliment me for the ingredients that I have in both cupboard and fridge but he suggested me that maybe next time he will come with me to buy some things that I haven’t got yet (the labels are in English as well, but they don’t mention things like “organic” in the translation).

So what’s on the menu Kazu?
We made basic stuff, one was miso soup, and the other onigiri.

Onigiri are for the Japanese people what sandwiches are for the Europeans, they are cheap, you can buy them almost everywhere and you can obviously make them at home.
For Onigiri you have to buy far east origin rice (I bought sushi rice from Waitrose), I would have liked to have a brown rice but I couldn’t find it, but you can buy it in the Japanese shops.
The worst part of the day was when my new frend realized that I don’t have a rice cooker. For him it must have sound as if I was right out of the stoneage and he looked amazed by my confession.
Despite this we covered the rice in water (in a normal pot!) and we let it rest for half an hour. The rice becomes flawlessly white and then it’s ready to be boiled (but the Japanese say steamed).
The ratio rice water is something like 1 to 1.2. You have to put a lid on the pot and try not touch it till the rice is cooked.
At the same time cut in half a roasted nori sheet. When the rice is cooked you just need to dip your hand in water, make a little ball of rice in your hand and you can put in the middle just any sort of filling. We made them with umeboshi, and even a less traditional version with anchovy fillets and wasabi.
After this you just need to place the ball in the middle of your nori sheet and roll the seaweed around the ball, you can make it stick with a drop of water. My first Onigiri looked nothing like the real thing, they where a bit ugly but they tasted really great!

You can add toasted sesame seeds and salt to the rice but it’s not compulsory.

The beginning is always hard...

To write a food blog without being a chef is a bit of a quest, you need a certain dose of arrogance, especially if you live in a place like London and your confidence have been boosted by the “wows” of friends that are used to eat out and cook very little!
Very often in my experience as a vegetarian, the option at parties or cafes has been the pasta bake with tons of cheap cheese and the vegan something with potatoes in the resemblance of a brown sausage…
This blog is just the way to let my friends in Italy know what I am up to in the big Smoke and also to answer to my workmates questions about what is in my lunchbox…

I have always been a big fan of the Japanese cuisine, but in London the Japanese cooking has become my new obsession especially since I have dropped Fresh and Wild and embraced the Japan Centre as my supplier of Soba-Udon and Wakame seaweed.
I always find myself staring at the people while I shop, to check what they are buying and to make sure I choose what they would from the shelves.
So being stuck at home with a nasty flu I thought I could post an ad to find somebody that could actually teach me the real thing, so I posted this on the Gumtree.
It went rather well in fact I have already received several answers and I organized a late morning rendezvous at my flat on Saturday with Kazu. He will check my cupboard and we can shop together and he can teach me a couple of dishes as a start… will he turn up?

Oh well I have to wait now and there’s a week of cooking to be done before the meeting!

Tonight we will have some quinoa and dahl, but the star dish will be this celery and pecan nuts stew:

Ingredients for 4 people (or two very hungry ones!)
300 grams celery
3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
50 grams pecan nuts (organic)
2 medium size onions
1 tablespoon rice malt syrup
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
vegetable broth (made with fresh veggies or organic vegetable bouillon stock)

1) rinse and dice the celery
2) peel the onions and add to boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and leave them to cool down
3)slice thinly the onions
4) heat the oil in a wok pan and add the onions with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, add the crushed pecan nuts and the celery and cook it on a medium heat for other five minutes
5) melt the malt in a sauce pan and heat up for 2 minutes, add the vinegar and half a cup of vegetable broth and leave it in the pan for other 2 minutes, before transferring the mixture on the other ingredients. Cook for further ten minutes. Add salt to taste and serve it warm!

While cooking this weekend I mostly played: Beirut Gulag Orchestra