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