vegan

Arakas – peas the Greek Way

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Arakás is a dish ideal for a quick and easy complete vegan meal any day of the week, throughout the year. It is a garden pea, carrot and potato stew with simple, clean flavours and beautiful textures, characterised by the fruity flavour of olive oil and the aromas dill and parsley.

Arakas with Feta Cheese

Arakás belongs to Laderá, a category of dishes which is a staple in the weekly Greek diet and which literally translates to ‘with oil’ or ‘oily’. Rather than cooking vegetables as a side, the vegetable of choice is the main event, with a similar process of preparation for each Ladero dish but different vegetable and herbs starring in each recipe depending on the seasonality and accessibility of vegetables, e.g. Okra, aubergine, green beans, etc.

Modern Greeks still eat copious amounts of Laderá despite their increasing gyros and souvlaki eating habits – they are healthy, affordable and delicious staples of a balanced diet.  And for convenience it is ingenious to have dishes which provide you with a whole meal in a pot making vegan and vegetarian food easily accessible throughout the year. With frozen peas available this dish can help you make the most of small quantities of carrot and potato you have left over. Just bag yourself some dried dill and parsley to use in this recipe in the future so that you don’t have to find fresh herbs each time.

Ingredients

  • 500g frozen garden peas
  • 2 carrots, sliced in thick rings or cubed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed (walnut size cubes)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 200g chopped tomatoes or passata (or 1 large fresh tomato grated or 1 Tbsp. tomato paste)
  • ½-1 small bunch of dill (up to 20g)
  • A few sprigs finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Preparation

  1. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with the olive oil.
  2. When hot add the chopped onion with a teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until translucent.
  3. Add the potatoes, carrots and pepper. Stir well to coat the oil.
  4. Add the frozen peas and stir well until they are also well coated with oil.
  5. Add the tomato of your choice stirring well for a couple minutes to start the cooking process and release the tomato flavour.
  6. Finally add the herbs and up to 1.5 cups boiling water with another teaspoon of salt.
  7. The water should cover the ingredients but should not be too much as you are aiming for a dry stew rather than a soup or saucy dish.
  8. Stir well and when the contents come to the boil simmer the stew for 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. The food is ready when liquid is absorbed.  There should be enough liquid to sponge up with nice slice bread but not so much as the vegetable swim in it. 
  10. Cool down the dish for 10-15 minutes before serving. This dish is delicious in room temperature or reheated up to two days from cooking. It also freezes well.
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Blaencamel Farm’s Cima di Rapa & greens in coconut sauce

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cimadirapa_coconut
Cima di rapa is a star ingredient grown organically in our very own patch by the fantastic Blaencamel Farm this January. It is a broccoli sprouting (Broccoli raab/Rapini) loved in Southern Italian/Puglian cooking, typically in anchovy and butter sauce combinations and served with orecchiette pasta. Together with the other greens offered in Blaencamel vegetable boxes and at farmers’ markets this January, Cima di Rapa has inspired a Lia’s Kitchen dish that takes me back to my Greek – greens – loving roots but also uses coconut milk, an ingredient I have come to love through my travels in India and Cambodia. Good and ample sea salt is essential for your recipe, as Cima di rapa loves a salty kick.

Ingredients (4 portions)

  • 700g mixed Blaencamel farm greens, such as 2 bunches of Cima di Rapa, half a bag of spinach and half a bag of winter sproutings
  • 5-10g peeled ginger (size of the top of your thumb)
  • 1 big peeled garlic clove
  • 1.5 cups of coconut milk for drinks OR 1 tin of coconut milk for cooking (400ml)
  • 4 tbsp. coconut oil, if using coconut milk for drinks OR 1 tbsp. coconut oil, if using tinned coconut milk for cooking
  • 1 heaped tsp. Oliveology’s truffle salt or Pembrokeshire Beach company Seaweed Salt
  • 1 heaped tsp sea salt
  • A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp Pembrokeshire Beach Company Kelp Seaweed (optional)

* You can source Pembrokeshire Beach Company products at Penylan Pantry.

Preparation (20 minutes)

  1. Wash all the greens really well. To ensure all dirt is removed leave the greens in a bowl or basin for around 10 minutes after the first wash.
  2. In a big pot add enough boiling water to cover the greens (stalks included) and boil for around 10-15 minutes on low heat, or until the stalks are cooked.
  3. Whilst the greens are cooking, heat the coconut oil and fry the ginger and garlic for a few minutes (roughly chopped in 2-3 three chunks each).
  4. Then add the coconut milk of your choice, the specialty salt and the kelp seaweed salt and chilli flakes if you are using.
  5. Lower the heat and simmer the coconut sauce for 5-10 minutes or until the greens are cooked.
  6. When the greens are ready, drain them keeping the liquid from the boiling process. You can use the liquid to boil pasta or noodles in it (if that’s a serving preference) and you might need a little bit of the liquid to thin the sauce of the dish, particularly if you are using tinned coconut milk.
  7. Return the greens in your big pot and pour the thin coconut sauce over them, simmering for another couple of minutes.
  8. If the coconut sauce has thickened use some of the liquid (kept after draining) to thin it. This is a dish for which you should have a runny, thin sauce to serve the greens in. The end result should be something between a thin soup and a stir fry.
  9. Cool down for 5 minutes and serve with bread or noodles to enjoy the flavoursome and nourishing sauce.

Oh sweet grain of Halva

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My mother was here until last Monday, and I kid you not, she made the best halva of her mother career for us. It was one small little change in the simple foolproof recipe that she has been using all her life- she used lime instead of lemon and oh my was that a wonderful deviation.

The halva recipe follows the simple 1-2-3-4 rule, which is fool proof and depending on your unit of measure allows you to make more or less portions of halva. If you use a cup as a unit of measurement you should have enough desert for about six people.

Remember to allow some time for the halva to cool down slightly so that you can mould it into your chosen shape or individual portions.

This desert is easy, quick, cheap and everybody loves it. And the recipe is vegetarian, vegan and dairy free.

Here is how we do Halva in the Moutselou clan although admittedly I prefer to brown the halva a bit more than mom because of the toasted grain smell it releases in the house.

Ingredients

1 measure of olive oil
2 measures of coarse semolina
3 measures of sugar (you can easily reduce that to 2 or even replace with honey)

Peel of half or whole lime or lemon
1 cinnamon stick
A big handful of chopped walnuts
Some finely chopped walnuts for dusting and decoration
Some cinnamon powder for decoration

Preparation

Prepare a syrup adding the boiled water, the sugar, a cinnamon stick and lime or lemon peel to a heat proof bowl or pan.

Stir the sugar until dissolved, cover and let it sit long enough to unleash the lime and cinnamon flavours[i].

Heat the olive oil in a pan (preferably non stick) until it’s almost sizzling.

Add the semolina to the pan and brown, stirring continuously and until it reaches your preferred shade of semolina brown[ii].

Add a big handful of coarsely chopped walnuts halfway through your browning action.

Remove the lemon/lime peel, stir the syrup in the pan of browned semolina and either remove from heat or lower to minimum whilst you continue stirring.

Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.

Let the halva mixture cool down for five minutes or more.

Mould either in a bundt cake tin or a loaf tin or in individual moulds of your choice, e.g. Greek coffee cups for smaller portions.

Dust with cinnamon powder and decorate with finely ground walnuts and.

Let the halva cool down before serving. The halva is delicious cold when left in the fridge overnight.

If you wish serve with grapes and decorate with single (soya) cream


Suggestions

[i] The longer you leave your syrup to sit the more flavoursome it will be but if you are in a rush you can just let it sit whilst you go through the next few steps.

[ii] Many people like to toast the semolina very slightly and until it absorbs the oil- if you prefer this your halva can look very pale and almost beige and could be very light. I love to brown the semolina to a heavier complexion but I would recommend a light tan for most beginners.

[iii] You will see the semolina expand.