Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Red lentil and roasted vegetable soup

Breakfast: An almond butter and banana smoothie

Lunch: Red lentil and roasted vegetable soup

Dinner: A char sui vegetable and soba noodle stir fry

When I was at Manchester Uni (a period I know affectionately think of as "the glory years", though my liver might not agree), one of the places I was most likely to be found eating was in the vegetarian cafe near the library. Claire and I used to go there often for their soups and their awesome cake - though if we're honest, it was more the latter than the former.

Their lentil soup was fantastic and brilliantly cheap, and kind to both a student budget and a hungover tummy (and the world). I hope that cafe is still there!

Yet still in my 3 years as a vegetarian I haven't really embraced the lentil soup family. I'm not sure why; perhaps it seemed more of a Manchester thing to me. Regardless, I stepped back onto the lentil bandwagon today as the lack of anything interesting in my fridge led me to make this red lentil and roasted veggie soup which was better than I ever expected.

A filling lunch choice with a lot of goodness inside, I'm having this again tomorrow!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2-4)
3 cups red lentils
3 red peppers
1 zucchini
1 large red onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
a little oil

Soak the lentils in water overnight, or for 1 hour before you begin
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Chop the zucchini roughly and quarter the red onion
Toss the onion, zucchini, garlic and peppers on a baking tray and drizzle with oil
Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning often
Allow to cool then chop all vegetables rougly
Place in a large pan with the stock and drained lentils, then add in the oregano, thyme and red wine vinegar
Cook for 20 minutes, then blend
Season to taste and enjoy!

Lentils have classically been the ultimate food for vegetarians; they're consistently rated as one of the top healthiest foods, and their high protein content means they've carved out a niche for themselves in a veggie diet. They also, however, have a reputation for being a little bland, but you won't believe it when you're enjoying this tasty soup!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vegan Valentine's Day; Vegan Irish "Moccachino" Chocolate Mousse

Breakfast: Spicy beans and brown rice

Lunch: Leek and potato soup

Dinner: Vegan chili with red wine followed by vegan Irish "moccachino" chocolate mousse

So Valentine's Day is here again.

I'm not going to pretend I'm a huge fan of this occasion - I  forbid Putin from buying me anything, taking me out, or acting in a way that is any different to any other day at all - but I do acknowledge that for many people, single and coupled, it is a day of much importance.

It's also a day where culinary decadence is all but demanded.

If you're planning to stay home and cook for your Valentine, you'll definitely need a great looking, great tasting, calorific treat that says "OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU SO HARD" so much more than a store-bought tiramisu.

This hits all of those criteria.

Now, I am really not a fan of using tofu in a lot of things, as it's hard to mask the taste, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this; in fact, after an hour in the fridge, it's damned amazing! The coffee and whiskey flavours are not predominant; instead they bring a warmth to the chocolate flavour and help the finished dish to be utterly decadent and full of love. It's also ridiculously easy to make; it will take you one hour and five minutes, with one hour of that being fridge time. Simple.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2 as a small dessert)
1 cup silken tofu
2 tbsp strong coffee
2 tbsp whiskey
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

Blend everything together
Divide between cups / small bowls
Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for a minimum of one hour
Serve up to your love and enjoy

If you've just served up a 12-course feast, you might want to serve this as shown in the picture, in a tall shot glass almost like an after-dinner liqueur. Like this, it will serve 4-5 people. If you prefer, though, a small cup or bowl with some raspberries in the bottom can be topped with this mousse for ultimate satisfaction.

Because nothing says "I love you" more than alcohol and chocolate!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan vanilla chai butterfly cupcakes with vanilla-cinnamon buttercream

Breakfast: A full vegan brunch from Fresh

Lunch: A veggie sandwich and coffee from Tequila Bookworm

Dinner: Leek and potato soup with crusty bread followed by two vegan vanilla chai butterfly cupcakes with vanilla-cinnamon buttercream

When I was living in Australia, one of my ultimate favourite things was the Tantric Turtle Chai tent at Playground Weekender festival. Run by what I believe was a cool hippy family, these guys went round festivals serving up their amazing nutmeg cake, putting on open-mic afternoons and generally being lovely. The only low point was when we saw a funnelweb spider in the area once, but that was sorted out pretty quickly.

The best thing about this tent though was their amazing, AMAZING soy chai. Made in giant vats, this stuff was absolutely phenomenal and always made my day. Since then, I've been hooked on chai.

This recipe is double chai-y; the milk is chai-infused, and the flour mix includes ground ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon too. My favourite part, though, is the vanilla-cinnamon buttercream. good.

You'll need:
(Makes 12)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 good quality chai tea bags
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Vanilla-cinnamon buttercream:
3 cups icing sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a cupcake tray with cupcake wrappers
Heat the milk in a pan until it's almost boiling, then take off the heat and throw in the 2 tea bags
Allow the tea bags to sit in the milk for 5-10 minutes while it cools
Remove the tea bags from the milk and stir in the vinegar
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, icing sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
Stir the oil and the vanilla essence into the milk mixture
Combine the milk mixture with the flour mixture and stir til just combined
Divide between the cupcake wrappers and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
Allow the cakes to cool
Whip the icing sugar, vegan margarine, vanilla essence and cinnamon together in a blender
With a sharp knife, cut the top off the cupcake, pointing the knife slightly downwards so you get a UFO-shaped piece of cake
Cut this in half into two "wings"
Fill the hole in the top of the cake with the buttercream then stick the two "wings" in, as shown in the photo
Repeat for each cake until you've got an army of vanilla-chai butterflies

The black tea in the chai tea bags gives this a slight bitter taste that contrasts delightfully with the sweetness of the buttercream. I love the spiciness of these and the smoothness of whipped buttercream; now, if only I can fly to Aus to have another of those amazing soy chais so with this cupcake...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Super simple pumpkin soup with cranberry sauce

Breakfast: Apple-soaked oatmeal with dates and blueberries

Lunch: Cous cous, spinach and black bean salad

Dinner: Vegan pate (thanks Hilary!), bhajis, super simple pumpkin soup with cranberry sauce and vegan cornbread with home made jam

We've has such a strange winter in Toronto; the other day it was +7, which is generally a temperature we don't see from December through to March. However, I woke up today to see a winter wonderland outside - real snow on the ground and a snap in the air. Now THIS is winter!

One of the best meals in any cold period is a simple vegetable soup. I'm all for curried parsnip and apple, and even the occasional daal, but a super simple soup lets the beautiful flavours of the food come through in full force and there's nothing better when you're cold, damp and sneezing all over the place.

This is cheap, easy and fun to make, and the cranberry sauce plays against the taste of the pumpkin gorgeously.

You'll need:
(Feeds 4)
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic
8-10 cups pumpkin, chopped
6-7 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp cranberry sauce
olive oil

Heat the oil in a pan, and throw in the onion and the garlic
Cook until the onions turn translucent then throw in the pumpkin
Cook for 10 minutes then add in the veg stock
Put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes
Allow to cool, then blend to a smooth consistency
Serve with 1/2 tsp cranberry sauce and enjoy!

Pumpkin is a good choice for a winter soup as it contains Vitamins A and C which could help keep you from getting that dreaded lurgy, and potassium, magnesium, and fibre as well.

Plus, it tastes delicious!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Vegan garlic pitta breads

Breakfast: Wholewheat pancakes with sugar-free blueberry sauce

Lunch: "Cream of" leek and potato soup with garlic pitta breads

Dinner: Miso noodle soup with steamed veggies and quinoa

I've realised that when people come over to your house, the best things you can serve are a selection of tasty little foods that go well together rather than one giant meal. I realised this the other night, when my friend Hilary and I chomped down on pumpkin soup, chickpea bjahis, vegan pate, kale chips and wicked little tortilla chips then vegan gluten-free cornbread with home made quick jam, all while we were busy doing stuff and without my customary OHMYGODPEOPLEARECOMINGOVER 3-hour slog in the kitchen. It's perfect.

In order to arm you with the necessary tools to make this happen, then, I should give you some quick and easy recipes for tapas or side dishes that can be put together nicely.

These vegan garlic pittas are so easy to make that it amazes me that more people don't make them. My great friend Fatty (long story - but rest assured, she is in fact a gorgeously healthy person) used to make garlic bread and I learned from her while we were living together in uni. I started making it on the large pitta pockets they sell in Canada just because they look awesome when you cut them up into triangles - see above!

The key to a good garlic pitta is heaps of garlic and a good smattering of oregano, which in my experience brings all the flavours together in a delightful little way.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2-4 as a side)
2 large wholewheat / 7 grain pitta pockets
8 tbsps vegan margarine
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tbsp oregano (more if you prefer)
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Add the garlic and oregano to the vegan margarine, mixing well, then add black pepper to taste
Cut each of the pitta breads in half to make two large half-circle pockets, then divide the garlic butter between them, using a knife to spread it all over the inside of the pocket
Throw in the oven for about ten minutes, until the butter has melted and the pittas are browning
Remove from the oven, cut each pitta half into 3 triangles, and serve!

I absolutely love serving these with patatas bravas or any sort of bolognese, although they go well together with almost any soup and a lot of salads too. A good way to feed many when you're short on time!

And let's not forget that good quality garlic is incredibly good for you - win!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Protein and Omega-3 nutty seed mix

Breakfast: Granola with blueberry sauce

Lunch: Sweet potato and cranberry salad with cous cous

Dinner: Toasted tortillas, spicy beans and rice followed by the protein and omega-3 nutty seed mix

We all get cravings for snacks, especially in the winter time, and though some of us might reach for the first sugary thing we can lay our hands on, some of us prefer salty snacks.

I'm definitely a sweet tooth, but sometimes you just know when you've had too much brownie mix and should have something healthier.

Nuts and seeds are a vegan's best friend. They provide much-needed omega-3s, iron and proteins, as well as antioxidants and other fantastic goodies. They can also stave off cravings and stop you eating buttery popcorns or heaps of chocolate when you go to a movie.

This is one of my favourite combinations, as the sweetness of the raisins just sets the edge against the savoury taste. A great snack for any time!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2 as snacks)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pepitas (raw, unshelled pumpkin seeds)
1 cup raisins

There is no method. Mix together, eat.

This combination brings you omega-3 fatty acids from the walnuts, protein, iron, zinc and potassium from the pepitas, and antioxidants, protein and fibre from the raisins. It's a veritable powerhouse of awesome stuff!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vegan coffee and ginger cupcakes with lemon drizzle frosting

Breakfast: A cacao, banana and blueberry smoothie

Lunch: Orzo salad with tofu followed by a vegan coffee and ginger cupcake with lemon drizzle

Dinner: Bean and balsamic vegetable fajitas with spicy kale chips

There's nothing I like more than a cake challenge, and thankfully, there is always potential for a new one just around the corner.

A coffee-passionate person in my life is about to have a birthday, and this got me thinking about the coffee cakes that my Gromma used to make when I was a kid. She used to have some sort of mad compulsion to make this and I remember we had to take home at least one a week lest some kind of famine strike the family. It was a fairly basic recipe, with instant coffee and a brown coffee frosting, and delicious though it was I wanted something a little more subtle for my friend's upcoming birthday.

I love the way that ginger brings a subtle heat and spiciness to recipes and, as it turns out, when this coffee and ginger combination is topped by a thin, lemony frosting drizzled on top, it reaches a whole other level of awesome.

Counter-intuitive though it may sound, you simply cannot use good coffee grounds in this. I tried using the fantastic Ugandan Peabody from Alternative Grounds on my second batch of these and there were literally inedible. Trust me; Maxwell House grounds or something along those lines is perfect; don't waste the good shiz.

You'll need:
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 2 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tbsp cheap coffee grounds
1 tsp nutmeg
Lemon drizzle:
1 cup icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Pour the almond milk and vinegar together in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and nutmeg and stir well
Add the oil, coffee and grated ginger to the milk mix and stir well
Combine the flour mix and the milk mix and stir until just combined
Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean
Set aside to cool
Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, then add enough water until it becomes the right consistency; watery but thick enough to leave a trail on the back of a spoon
Beat this well until it's totally smooth, then drizzle over the cooled cakes in the manner shown above. Don't be afraid to drizzle it all over the counter to get it perfect!

I took these to a few people to be taste-tested and they were all eaten within about 5 seconds of reaching their destination. The requests that I make more suggest that these are pretty good.

Remember: don't use good coffee!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bloomfield's Badass Foods: 5 Myths About Veganism

Ok, so we all know that the vegan diet has been much maligned throughout history, from its false association with limp-wristed, noodle-armed non-athletes throughout the 20th Century and the decrying of its cause by the food mainstream. As a child, if you saw a particularly wan, pale and skinny individual, you would remark to your friends, "Why, perchance that fellow has not had his quota of dead animal snacks today? Perhaps half a roast chicken would straighten him up and put a bit of colour in his hide!" I remember this really clearly when I was younger, with the older generation particularly distrustful of non-meat eaters but the younger generation rushed to try to keep up with this jaundiced viewpoint!

With this article I'm going to give you vegan types a chance to fight back against this misinformation and present an argument actually based on science! Logic won't always prevail against a particularly braying antagonist but gosh darn it, I'm going to see you go into battle armed with the most concise arguments against the five most common myths about veganism!

Let the wisdom commence!

Myth #1: "You don't get enough protein from plants and stuff!"

I need to take a deep breath with this one. A very common (and inane) argument that can be surprisingly hard to counter, this is definitely a myth. As I outlined in my previous post about proteins, the essential amino acids can be found in every plant, vegetable and fruit. You can get all of the essential ones easily as long as you have a varied diet of fruits and vegetables, as they will combine together to get you a more than ample amount. No special combinations are required either, as is often thought, so you don't need to fret about matching split peas with pumpkin seeds; just enjoy the food and keep it varied!

Myth #2: "But vegans are just sooooooo pale and skinny, they must not get enough fat!"

Ok, I could trot out some sort of testimonial from some amazing healthsome bodybuilding vegan who is rosy of cheek and packing some serious guns, but this is not necessary - there are plenty of those people out there! Vegan diets do tend to be lower in fat than most conventional Western diets but this doesn't mean a lack of them; often vegans are eating higher quality fats and fats that are traditionally considered healthy (the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones). I will defend the often falsely maligned high quality saturated fats to my last breath, but it is true that most Westerners eat poor quality saturated fats from unhealthy animals and since an unhealthy animal stores its toxins and unwanted nasties in its fat, this can often be a problem for any of us higher up the food chain!

As a vegan, you will sidestep that whole issue and can instead focus on getting a healthy amount of fats from the other groups. Again, keep up variety and don't be afraid to chow on the fat. Fat will make you fit, not fat. (Ignore your common sense reading of that, as it will lead you in a completely wrong direction. Mine sounds crazier, but it is true!)

Myth #3: "You must get bored just eating carrots and green stuff?"

I am not vegan, as I have mentioned in previous posts. However, the above statement makes my blood boil so hot, I often want to beat the sayer of nonsense over the head with a half eaten swede and garrotte them with a shallot. Vegetables, fruit, herbs and the like are what give the best meals the most exquisite flavours. If you remove these from the equation, you are left with a poor quality meal that needs artificial flavourings and sugary, gloopy sauces to give it a vestige of flavour. Skip that glutinous, poisonous filth and just get the taste from veg! It really is that easy! The better quality the produce, the stronger and more varied the tastes, and the influence it can have over your food. Trust me; organic garlic, onions and ginger pretty much makes a delicious aromatic dish on its own before you even add anything else!

It is true that vegans will drop whole food categories from their diet but what you might lack in categories, you can make up for in a greater exploration of the ones you have. Try new veg and fruit, explore new herbs and try out alternatives to dairy and meat products. Some of them might taste bland (as any foods can) but most are delicious, as my girlfriend and I found with a batch of dairy-free ice cream we bought. I was a bit sceptical, being an ice cream fiend, but my stomach and brain were completely won over - truly delicious! Keep on experimenting and just try to emphasize the variety aspect when you meet with a doofus!

Myth # 4: "Don't vegans need a vitamin supplement? B12 or something? Humans aren't meant to live like that!"
Sigh. Again, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing! People often think that because vitamin B12 is necessary for optimum human health and that vegans often need to supplement their diets with B12, that somehow this makes a vegan diet completely unnatural and unholy. This is straight up, grade-A hypocrisy! The $25 billion industry for supplements in the United States ALONE suggests that vitamin B12 isn't the only that this is being missed form our modern diets, and that it isn't just vegans buying them (unless they are really big spenders!). A large number of people supplement their diets, especially with Vitamin C (bizarrely, since fruits and vegetables are so widely available) and Vitamin D (understandably, as we have moved away from the equatorial regions that gave us enough sunlight to absorb ample amounts of it). We may as well claim it is unnatural to move away from our species starting point in Africa!

Myth #5: "Doesn't it hurt when you first become a vegan? I heard you get totally sick!"

There is no need for someone to become ill when they transition from carnivore or veggie to full of vegan. The common logic goes that when you change, you are detoxing, releasing loads of toxins that have accumulated for years in your systems and you get a kind of cumulative thrashing as your body tries to sort itself out.

This isn't true.

There is no such thing as a "detox diet". This was invented by marketing men to sell you new things.

Long term healthy eating will help your system run at optimum efficiency, not a fad diet. Your body is full of super efficient organs that will help you out throughout and will work more efficiently as you release them from the strain of taking in poor quality food. You should feel perfectly fine and in fact, if the quality of the food you are eating improves, you should feel much better than you did previously! The old adage is true: you are what you eat, so if you want to feel clean, clear and fresh, start with some delicious high quality organic foods!

Of course, we could write an entire book on the benefits of a vegan diet (and people have; check out the groundbreaking China Study) but here are at least a few bits to help you out in an argument with a particularly ignorant slughead. Feel free to shout "TOUCHE!" as you use it and help stop the spread of misinformation! Go out into the world just a little better armed.

Happy eating!

David Bloomfield

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sugar-free apple and berry breakfast crumble

Breakfast: Sugar-free apple and berry breakfast crumble with a cup of chai tea

Lunch: A quinoa, roasted beet, avocado and spinach salad

Dinner: A mixed veggie stir fry on soba noodles and a vegan coffee and ginger cupcake with lemon frosting

Now, I've had an obsession with crumble since I was a child. If it wasn't the first thing I learned to make, then it was the first important thing I learned to make, and eating it was a regular occurrence; apple crumble every time the apples came off the tree, every time we had a Sunday roast and pretty much every time one of us felt like it and the cake tin was nearly empty. Lovely stuff.

Unfortunately this crumble-heavy diet is unsustainable. For a start, I don't live in Rawmarsh any more and keeping that many apples in the house at all times would probably triple my grocery budget. No, no; these days, crumbles are strictly for treats...

...until now.

Spurred on by the success of healthy quinoa breakfast cake a few weeks ago, I set about this week creating a fat- and sugar-free apple and berry crumble that would actually be nutritionally beneficial to me, meaning I could eat it in the mornings, guilt-free. And I succeeded.

You'll need:
(Feeds 4 for a small breakfast or 2 hungry people)
3 cups diced apple
1 cup water
1 cup blueberries
1 cup dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup wholewheat flour
2 tbsp ground flax
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Place the apples and 1 cup water together in a pan and bring to the boil
Lower down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all the water is gone and it resembles apple sauce
While the apples are cooking, place the dates, 1/2 cup water and vanilla essence in another pan and heat for 5-8 minutes
Blend the date mix together into a paste
Remove both pans from the heat and stir the blueberries into the apple sauce
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the chopped walnuts, ground flax, cinnamon and oats
Add the date paste to the mixing bowl and, using the rubbing method, combine it with the dry ingredients until it looks like - well, a crumble topping!
Pour the fruit mix into a ovenproof dish and top with the crumble
Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is browning

The great thing about this dish is that you can prepare it the night before and just cook in the oven in the morning - or reheat the leftovers the next day!

Both the flax and the walnuts in this dish bring a good amount of vegan-friendly omega 3s fatty acids to the table, but even better are the oats. As well as being a great source of slow-release energy and helping to regulate the blood sugar of diabetics, oats are actually a good source of protein. Oat protein is considered to be almost equivalent to milk, egg or meat protein, and, along with all the other goodness in this meal, sets you up for a brilliant day!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sandwich week day 5: Roasted beet, caramelised onion and wilted spinach

Breakfast: French Vanilla granola with blueberries

Lunch: Roasted beet, caramelised onion and wilted spinach sandwich

Dinner: Vegan tacos with chickpea and bean salad

My beetroot renaissance has been in full swing for 2 or 3 years now. I only ever used to eat the things pickled when I was younger, but a great recipe for beet soup changed that, and now I can't get enough of them. I've baked them into cakes, made salads out of them and even put them in smoothies - and every single time, it works out fantastically.

The caramelised onions here (made without any additional sugar) bring a great and subtle flavour to the whole proceedings - I always find that onion, beets and tomatoes go together really well. This is a great lunch snack as it's packed full of goodness and feels hearty enough to get you through the day!

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
2 large slices good quality wholewheat bread
2 medium beets
1 large onion, chopped
2 handfuls fresh spinach
a little oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Roughly slice the beet into thick slices, with the skin on, and drizzle with a little oil
Roast for 20-30 minutes then remove
While this is happening, fry the onions in a little oil on a medium heat
When the onions start to dry out, add water to the pan
Keep doing this until the natural sugars come out and the onions begin to caramelise
Remove onions from the pan and toss in the fresh spinach
Dry fry for 2-3 minutes until just wilted
Remove from the heat
Remove the skin from the cooled beet slices
Assemble sandwich like this: bread slice, beets, onions, spinach, bread

There's no need for spreads here, as the sandwich contents are so moist, but if you like, you can add a thin layer of salsa or tomato paste. Trust me, they work!

Beets, as I've said before, are a vegan superfood, and spinach is always a good thing to bring to your diet regularly as it contains spinach and other goodies. This might just be the healthiest sandwich we've had all week!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sandwich week day 4: The Gourmet Chip Butty

Breakfast: Molasses pancakes with blueberry sauce

Lunch: California salad with fruit

Dinner: The Gourmet Chip Butty with salad

Some people think that the quintessential British meal is the roast dinner. Some people think it's a curry, or even high tea. They're all wrong; it's a chip butty.

Just to clarify: "butty" is a shortened form of "...and butter sandwich", so this is buttered sandwich made from "fries". I know this can be a confusing concept to those outside the UK.

You'll be hard pressed to find a British person under 40 who hasn't enjoyed a horribly fattening chip butty at 2.30am some rainy morning when they've just poured themselves out of a drinking establishment. Not only are they phenomenally tasty when done right, they're also a good idea: chip butties help avoid hangovers, as both the chips and the bread soak up the alcohol in your stomach. Ask any British person. There may be no evidence for it but it is scientific fact.

The only problem is that they're also horribly unhealthy for you, as the chips are deep fried in fat, and they're also not vegan, as the bread is always buttered.

Thankfully, this recipe is a little healthier and inclusive; the potatoes are wedges rather than thin, fat-heavy chips, they're baked, the butter is soy, and the bread is good-quality wholewheat rather than crappy white non-bread. And it's still as tasty as the artery-clogging version.

You could call this a gourmet butty - in fact, I will.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
4 slices good quality wholewheat bread
12-14 baby potatoes
soy butter / vegan margarine
olive oil
good quality BBQ sauce / ketchup
eggplant spread or similar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Leave the skin on the potatoes and chop them in half longways
Cut each half into 3 wedges
Take a ziplock bag and fill it with wedges
Drizzle olive oil into the bag along with salt and pepper and close it, squishing the bag so the wedges end up covered
Repeat until all wedges are done then place into the oven
Bake for 20-30 minutes until crispy
Spread a thin layer of soy butter / vegan margarine on one side of all the bread slices
Spread a thin layer of eggplant spread (or whatever you're using) on 2 of those slices, on top of the butter / margarine
Place the slices with the spread on the plate and top with half of the wedges, allowing some to spill out onto the plate
Drizzle the BBQ / ketchup on top of the fries, then top each butty with the final slice

Now, this brings up a whole other debate: should one squish the sandwich before attempting to eat or should one struggle with the enormity of the thing with no help? Personally, I'm a squisher.

Disclaimer: this is not something you want to eat every day. However, a little bit of what you want does you good, and this is infinitely less bad for you than your standard chip shop butty...and don't get me wrong. This tastes amazing. Just not every day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sandwich week day 3: Chunky hummus and grilled zucchini

Breakfast: Apple and blueberry "crumble"

Lunch: Chunky hummus and grilled zucchini sandwich with gazpacho soup

Dinner: Vegetable noodle soup and kale

I first had a chunky hummus sandwich at the phenomenal Tea Tree cafe on the Danforth. I'd never before thought of hummus as more than a spread, much like butter or pesto, but the idea of layering it on thick and making it the main feature sat really well with me.

With only 2 main ingredients this is a very simple sandwich, perfect for putting together for a lunch when you've pressed the "snooze" button 4 or 5 times too many and you're rushing out the door. It's also damn delicious.

You'll need:
(Feeds 2)
4 thick slices wholemeal bread
2 small zucchini, slices longways
6 tbsp chunky hummus, store bought or made according to this recipe
a little oil
black pepper
a little soy butter / vegan margarine if you like

Grill the zucchini slices with a little oil for 5-8 minutes
Assemble the sandwiches like this: bottom layer of bread, soy butter / vegan margarine if using, 3 tbsp chunky hummus per sandwich, black pepper, half the zucchini per sandwich, another layer of soy butter / margarine if using, top layer of bread
Squish down a little and enjoy!

Hummus is a great thing for vegetarians to eat, as its not only rich in Vitamin C and fibre but is a great source of iron, which vegetarians can become deficient in. Zucchini is rich in potassium and Vitamin A, making this a very decent sandwich to have, even if it can be ready in under 10 minutes!

Fun fact: when hummus is eaten with bread, it serves as a whole protein - so this is actually a great post-workout snack!