I attempted Veganuary this year. I lasted three days. But the reason for my downfall was not the aching lack of bacon or creamy yoghurt, but milk. And, more specifically, milk in tea. Say what you will, almond milk just doesn’t taste the same. As I drink on average about five cups of tea a day, this was a bit of a problem. I have been trying to consume less dairy, so have almond milk on cereal, but I realised pretty quickly that completely cutting out dairy was going to be a challenge that I didn’t particularly want to deal with. Especially alongside dry January, which is going much better (apart from an ill-considered encounter with a boozy tiramisu, which I’m not sure counts).
However, I am trying to eat more vegetables, and less meat. This seems to be more problematic for people to grasp than just saying you’re a vegetarian. I do eat meat, I’m just deliberately trying to eat less. I have recently found myself inadvertently cooking vegetarian and vegan food, as I’m focusing on vegetables as the centerpiece of the dish, rather than meat. This beetroot dip is laughably easy, and a great way to shoehorn lots of raw veg into an easily digestible form. It can be eaten as it is, with toasted pittas to scoop it up with, or as part of a salad with some grilled halloumi, maybe. The nigella seeds (not marketed by Ms. Lawson, they’re also known as ‘black onion seeds’) are optional, as they can be hard to get your hands on. We found some and thought they’d act as a brilliant colour contrast to the vibrant purple of the beetroot.
Click here for Paris’ take on the subject.
I’ve recently had two of my housemates from university come to visit. Food is one of the things that cements our friendship, having run a student food blog together (www.chocolatebudget.wordpress.com, if you’re interested). We had something of a dip extravaganza, making several different ones including baba ganoush, guacamole and this butternut squash one. All accompanied by pitta bread, olives and a great deal of reminiscing.
This spread is something of a revelation. It’s from one of my favourite cookbooks – ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. If you haven’t heard of Ottolenghi then please get to know him. Amy first introduced his recipes to me while we were at uni, and I promptly bought a copy of ‘Ottolenghi: The Cookbook’ for myself and several others. His first cookbook details the salads, pastries and other amazing things sold at his London based delis, incorporating his influences from all over the world. Whereas Jerusalem does what you’d expect: focuses on Middle Eastern food. I’d recommend getting both.
One of the things that pops up a lot in Ottolenghi’s recipes is date syrup. Although it’s usually quite expensive, I’ve found a cheap source of it in my local Middle Eastern food shop. Other delights that they stock include massive tubs of tahini, pomegranate molasses, fig jam and dried sour cherries. The date syrup is not essential for this dish, but makes it a sublime experience, rather than merely an intensely pleasurable one.
There is a lengthy description about how this dip should be served, something about spreading it onto a plate, making swirls in it with your knife and drizzling over the date syrup. The suggested amount is 2 teaspoons, bearing in mind that the dip is already very sweet just from the squash, but I found it difficult to be so restrained and drenched the whole lot in something approaching 2 tablespoons.
When browsing on one of the many food blogs I follow, I came across a suggestion that the only way to really smooth hummus is to peel the chickpeas. That’s right PEEL the chickpeas. Your first reaction, as mine was, might well be that life’s too short. I even considered just putting in the recipe that you should peel the chickpeas, but chucking them in whole myself. But then, I guess that would be cheating.
So peel them I did (I’ve included a picture of my beautifully peeled chickpeas as proof of my efforts). You can actually get quite into the rhythm of squeezing the chickpeas and popping them out of their skins – although don’t do it when you’re in a rush, or you’ll probably just give up and bung them in whole.
This is not only the first time I’ve peeled chickpeas when making hummus, it’s also the first time I’ve measured all the ingredients – usually I just blend random amounts until it looks about right. I’ve made a few amendments to the basic hummus recipe of chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste) and olive oil, to make the result slightly more interesting. I’ve added roasted garlic and honey for sweetness, and wine wine vinegar for a bit of a kick.
I knocked up a batch of olive oil crackers to serve with the hummus. They are sprinkled with Nigella seeds – which, by the way, are also called kalonji black onion seeds. They are nothing whatsoever to do with Nigella Lawson, although she likes to pretend they are.