Riverford sent me some celery. I don’t hate celery, per se, but I don’t like it cooked in stews or anything like that and I certainly don’t want to make a soup out of it and I don’t really like it raw in salads either. As far as I can see, celery’s only role in life is to be an edible spoon for hummus. Which, as roles in life go, isn’t a bad one – in fact, it’s to be commended, but I didn’t have any chickpeas with which to make the best hummus in the world ever so I was stuck with celery and nothing to eat it with.
So, as I knew I had a tin of green lentils, I pondered on Twitter whether green lentil hummus was a thing.
I haven’t got any chickpeas – is lentil hummus a thing?
and I reckoned she (actually, I have no idea if it’s a girl or boy Hornett so, if you’re reading this, @healthyhornett, sorry for assuming you’re a she) was right and, after promising to report back, I went off and made some green lentil hummus.
Well, two days later I did, anyway. And, do you know what? Green lentil hummus is most definitely a thing and an excellent alternative to the more traditional chickpea one.
I made this hummus in my Optimum G2.1 blender which whizzed it into smooth and creamy hummusy perfection in a minute but if you haven’t got a high powered blender, you might want to add a bit more olive oil to help it along.
I’ve been hankering after a food dehydrator for years. Mostly, I’ve got to admit, because it’s a kitchen gadget and, despite what The Meat Eater says, you can’t have too many kitchen gadgets.
The thing is though, what exactly does one do with a dehydrator? Yes, I know you dehydrate food in them, but what? and – more importantly – why? I know raw foodists find them essential for their diet, as I found this out a few years ago when I briefly pondered whether to do a ‘raw food week’ challenge and picked up a raw food recipe book and saw it mostly contained recipes using a dehydrator to make, amongst other things, pizza bases (which led me to briefly ponder whether I wanted a raw pizza, decided I didn’t and put the book down and phoned Papa John’s instead).
Then Vida got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try out one of their appliances; one of which being a food dehydrator. The time had come to release my inner raw foodist, hurrah!
After googling ‘what do I do with a food dehydrator’, I looked at a few websites, got thoroughly confused, so I asked on the Little Vegan Kitchen Facebook Page what people there did with theirs. One reply I particularly liked the sound of was courgette crisps. I did some more googling and found a whole load of recipes with varying drying times ranging from 5 hours to 15 hours, so back I went to the Little Vegan Kitchen and asked how long they usually dry for and was told 24 hours. Oh. That’s a long time. But I was going to make my courgette crisps, no matter how long they took.
Anyway, before I tell you about my courgette crisps, let me tell you about the Vida Food Dehydrator.
The first thing you need to know is that it’s big. I thought food dehydrators were about the size of a shoe box. This is more the size of a post box. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration but this is not a small machine, so it’s not going to sit unobtrusively on your kitchen worktop.
I also thought food dehyrators were silent. I don’t know why I thought this but I did and they’re not. They’re not washing machine noisy but you will notice the sound, so my dehydrator has been banished to the conservatory where it can whirr away without disturbing anyone.
As with most kitchen appliances, the instruction manual is useless. Saying that though, you don’t need a manual for this machine, as there is absolutely nothing to working out how to use it: Put on the trays whatever fruit or veg you’re drying, put the lid on top, switch it on, turn the dial to the required temperature and press a button to tell it how many hours you want it to be on for (23 is the maximum but you can just turn it off and start it again if you want it to be on for longer – the instructions do say though not to have it running longer than 72 hours without giving the machine a bit of a rest). So, yeah, you don’t really need a manual, it just seemed a bit odd to get an appliance with no suggested recipes in the manual with which to start you off.
But I already had my suggested recipe from my friends at the Little Vegan Kitchen anyway, so I prepared my courgette crisps and about a day later they were ready and I ate them all in one go, they were that good. I don’t usually like dried fruit or vegetable crisps, so I probably only liked them because I made them, in the way a mother loves her ugly baby, but, hey ho. They didn’t come out properly crispy like a crisp, but I’m assuming the longer you leave them dehydrating, the crispier they get.
You’ll see from the photo above that I lined my trays with baking paper. Some recipes said to do this, some didn’t. I decided to, I don’t know why. I probably wanted to keep the trays clean.
I currently have some cashew, onion and sunflower seed crackers in the dehydrator and I’ll let you know what they turn out like.
The Vida Food Dehydrator is available from ebuyer.com for (at the time of writing) £29.99.
I love crisps but I’m only too aware they’re not the healthiest snack around so I’m always on the look out for a healthy alternative. Therefore, I was keen to give Scrubbys a go when they got in touch recently.
Scrubbys is an award-winning vegetable crisp brand available in two flavours – Beetroot, Sweet Potato, Parsnip & Carrot with Sea Salt, and Parsnip Crisps with Chilli & Lime Zing. Neither flavour contains artificial colourings or flavourings; they’re gluten free as well as being suitable for vegetarians and vegans. They also contain at least 30% less fat and 18% less calories than other standard fried vegetable crisps. Even the name Scrubbys has a link to their nutritional value; unlike other brands, Scrubbys aren’t peeled but scrubbed clean, leaving the skins on, before being sliced and gently fried and we all know that the best bit is just under the skin, don’t we?
Being a chilli-lover, I tried the chilli and lime flavour. They had a great crunch to them and went well with my homemade hummus (click here for the best ever hummus recipe) but the flavour was too subtle for me – I expected much more chilli and lime to come through. Seeking a second opinion, I asked The Meat Eater to try one and he agreed with me.
Leaving the slight lack of flavour to one side though, if you’re looking for a healthy crisp to dip into your dips – Scrubby’s are for you as they’re large which makes them ideal to use as an edible spoon.
Scrubbys are currently available in 40g (RRP £1.25) and 100g (RRP £2.49) packs and stocked in the ‘free from’ aisle at Waitrose and online at Ocado. The range is also available at independent retailers throughout the UK.
I’ve reinstated my Riverford Veg Box delivery and last week I received a box containing – amongst other vegetables – kale and parsnips. Parsnips are usually something I only ever eat when they’re forced on me but they do make a delicious soup, especially when spiced up with a bit of chilli. This soup was a great way to use up some of the kale, too. I felt approximately three-hundred-and-thirty-six times healthier after eating it (until I had some hot chocolate and a couple of biscuits immediately after, that is).
I made this in my soup maker. If you’re making it on the hob, fry the onion and garlic in oil for a few minutes first, then add the rest of the ingredients, simmer for about 20 minutes or so until the parsnip is tender, then blend at the end.
Soup Machine Parsnip and Kale Soup (serves 3-4)
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 large handfuls of chopped kale (minus the thick middle stalks)
1 green chilli, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1L vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Chuck it all in the soup machine and let your soup machine do its thing.
I’m glad I didn’t make these yesterday on Vegan Monday, as there’s no way I would have been able to resist them until today. Quick, easy and I didn’t even need to leave the house to buy any ingredients. Oh, they’re flipping delicious, too.
Chilli cheese flapjacks (makes 9 slices)
(recipe taken from All Recipes)
50g butter, melted (I didn’t have any butter, so used Flora)
150g any hard cheese, grated
2-3 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
150g porridge oats
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease an 8” square tin.
While the butter is melting gently in a pan, combine the other ingredients in a bowl.
Add the melted butter to the bowl and mix well.
Pat the mixture into the tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
The Meat Eater’s away and I pondered what to have for dinner. I had planned to have a tortilla pizza but it rained all afternoon and I didn’t fancy cycling in the rain to the farm shop to buy mushrooms. That meant the toppings on my tortilla pizza would consist only of cheese and onion. Bit tame, really.
Then I remembered I had a pack of Macsween’s Microwaveable Haggis in the fridge. Result.
Despite the name, you don’t have to microwave the haggis (although if you want to microwave it, it only takes 60 seconds); you can grill it or fry it or stuff peppers or mushrooms (other vegetables are available to stuff) with it, or you can do what I did and make a pizza wrap with it. (You can also not do what I did and forget to add rocket and chilli flakes.)
Macsween’s Vegetarian Haggis is vegan, so if you want a vegan version, just leave out the cheese or use vegan cheese.
I woke up yesterday morning and decided that, from now on, Mondays would be vegan days. First things first though, and I went downstairs to check if my hot chocolate was vegan. It wasn’t, dammit! But, aha! I had a tub of cocoa in the cupboard, which is vegan. Okay, so it’s two years out of date, but never mind.
Lunch wasn’t a problem. I’d got up so late, I didn’t have any. I felt a bit peckish in the afternoon though so decided to have some cup-a-soup. Then I realised cream of asparagus cup-a-soup probably wasn’t vegan (the ‘cream’ bit gave me a hint), and it wasn’t, but I had a packet of Ainsley Harriott’s Hot & Sour cup-a-soup, which was (as far as I could tell – I’m not an expert at reading labels for non-vegan ingredients). Yay, good old Ainsley.
Dinner was easy, all I had to do was make something and leave out the ‘cover it in cheese’ bit. I had an aubergine and some mushrooms in the fridge, so mushroom-stuffed aubergine it was. The Meat-Eater says veganism is ‘unnecessary’, so he covered his in salad cream and Flora and said it was ‘okay-ish’ (if he hadn’t read on Facebook I was having a vegan day, he’d have said it was nice).
Aubergine stuffed with mushroom and chilli, topped with herby breadcrumbs (serves 2)
The Meat Eater looked at his plate and said ‘what is it?’ ‘A chimichanga’, I said. He said that didn’t really tell him much so I explained it was a tortilla filled with kale and beans and peppers and he relaxed a little.
When I got to the ‘carefully fold up the sides of the tortillas to make parcels’ bit, I thought it was going to be a disaster (you should see me trying to wrap presents) but, yay, they came out perfectly.
2 tbsp olive oil 2 onions, sliced 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced 400g canned black beans, drained and rinsed 2 tsp chilli powder 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying 150g kale, shredded Juice of 1 orange 4 large soft tortillas salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Fry the onions and peppers for 10-12 minutes, or until the onions are translucent but the peppers are still quite firm. Stir in the drained beans and chilli powder, cook for a further minute, then remove from the heat.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small wok over a high heat. Stir-fry the shredded kale with the orange juice for 4 minutes, or until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the cooked kale between the tortillas, making a neat pile in the middle of each flatbread. Top the greens with a layer of the bean mixture. Then carefully fold up the sides of the tortillas to make parcels.
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the chimichanga parcels briefly on both sides (starting with the side where the folds are visible) until crisp and golden.
4-6 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped 1/4 – 1/2 medium red onion, very finely chopped 1 small garlic clove, crushed Small splash of white wine vinegar Squeeze of lime juice Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge until it’s served.
350g Quorn Mince 6 tbsp hoisin sauce 1 clove garlic, crushed 2 tbsp rice wine 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped 2 tbsp soy sauce 2 tbsp vegetable oil 100g mange tout, halved lengthways 6 spring onions, chopped 4 blocks egg noodles 125g beansprouts 200g pak choi, chopped
Combine the Quorn Mince, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, chilli and soy sauce, mixing well. Heat the oil in a wok or stir-fry pan then add the mince mixture and stir-fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the mange tout and half the spring onions and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the pack instructions.
Just before serving, stir the beansprouts and pak choi into the mince, allowing the pak choi to wilt slightly. Fork in the noodles and serve immediate3ly, garnished with remaining spring onions.