Tag Archives: vegan

Nettle soup is the one to make


Sometimes an idea takes years to come to fruition. It has distinct stages such as scoffing, curiosity, acceptance then habit.

Take nettles. I used to think eating them was weird. But over the years the idea started to intrigue.

Last spring in Westward Ho! Chloë showed me a patch of nettles, and how to pick then with gloves, the freshest top leaves according to another blogger. Nettles were no longer alien as I cooked them in pasta and soup and found them delicious.

Perhaps precisely because nettles are wild and have not been cultivated or hybridised, they taste extra-vibrant and are highly-nutritious.

This spring, in Bristol, I saw nettles growing and thought “soup”. Then on Friday I overheard Leona, the owner of St Werburgh’s City Cafe talking about: “nettles and wild garlic soup.”

The next day Mike and I found ourselves on a magical walk beside the river Avon  in a mysterious part of the city. An abundance of nettles and wild garlic grew.


I picked up a discarded Tesco plastic bag (litter bugs have their place in the universe), sniffed it, found it clean and after borrowing a glove, started pinching off the fresh greens and filling the bag.

The next morning, I weighed the nettles and the wild garlic: 4 ounces.It didn’t seem enough – but it was.

I cut up a fat onion and gently fried it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan. I let it stew for an hour with the lid on, so the onion was soft and a bit caramelised. I was experimenting but you could fry the onion for much less time (like 10 minutes or so).

I added 900 mls of water. To thicken the soup I added 1 ounce of raw oats.

Then I snipped in the washed nettles and wild garlic, and let it simmer for about five minutes and turned off the saucepan. The soup carried on cooking with the lid on.

And it was delicious.

Can you get food more real than nettle soup?


Proud to fly the Food Renegade flag, I contribute this blog on local and sustainable Nettle Soup to Fight Back Fridays to help overturn the domination of industrialised food!


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Homemade hummus


The cast is assembled. The starring ingredients (pictured) in a classic production of hummus are: olive oil, a jar of tahini,  lemons and garlic, and chickpeas soaking in a pan of water.

Thanks to kineseology, I was recently diagnosed as lactose-intolerant. Ah ha! The missing piece of the jigsaw – no wonder I prefer vegan food.

I am sad to ban eating cheese, butter and cream but not when I realise those yummy darlings make my gut sore because I lack the digestive enzymes to process them. Apparently most non-Europeans (including Mediterreanean/Eastern European types like myself) are lactose-intolerant.

This makes me ponder: our dairy-filled western diet may be dominant but is it giving the rest of the world a belly-ache?

So instead of eating cheese, I concoct homemade hummus every week. Although made from plants, hummus is a complete protein because it is combines different groups of plants, in this case, chickpeas and sesame seeds.

You can buy cooked chickpeas in a can in most shops and search out a wholefood shop or Mediterranean/Middle east delicatessen for a jar of tahini (sesame seed paste) and raw chickpeas. This recipe uses raw chickpeas.

The amounts are enough for a party dip, or eight-ten servings. I dollop it on toast, brown rice, grated carrots, lentils, fried eggs…

[Note: Chickpea upped from 100g to 150g following Ingrid Rose’s helpful comments below. So do take note when doing five times the amount, Ingrid Rose!]

150g dried organic chickpeas soaked in over twice the amount of water. Soak overnight (or speed up the process by soaking in boiling-hot water) in a pan. The chickpeas will go from shrunken to plumped-up pellets.

Bring the pan with chickpeas to the boil then simmer for an hour (on a low light with a lid) until they are soft-enough to mash.

Drain the chickpeas (hang on to the cooking water for later) and put them in a large deep bowl ready for mashing (or blending) together with:

3 Tablespoons of organic tahini or sesame seed paste. I use a dessert spoon for measuring because it will fit in the jar – give the tahini a jolly good stir before spooning out.

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of two lemons – cut in half and rotate a fork vigorously to extract the juice and pulp or use a lemon squeezer. Organic lemons can be smaller than non-organic ones and have more pips but they are more juicy.

2 fat cloves of garlic – crushed with a garlic crusher or the flat of a knife. It’s optional – not everyone loves immune-boosting garlic.

Add salt and black pepper for taste and/or crushed chilli and/or ground cumin.

A word on chickpeas. You can buy them tinned – conveniently and organically – but I prefer dried. Dry, rattly chickpeas which you soak are cheaper, tastier, less watery and have twice the nutrients than canned ones.


I blend half the drained chickpeas with:

garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil

and whizz till smooth. It’s easier to work in small batches.

Then I add the remaining chickpeas – see picture above. If the mixture is too stiff to blend, add a teaspoonful or two of the cooking water. You are aiming for smooth and creamy not runny.

I am addicted to my electric handheld blender but a strong fork or potato masher will mash the chickpeas – just make sure the garlic is well-crushed before adding.

And here’s the mystery, every homemade hummus turns out differently.

Have you made hummus?


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Tofu smoothie offering

Tofu smoothie

I lay on my bed, as heavy as a stone. How to eat when your energy deserts you? Gazing up at my lampshade reminded me of the yellow-themed photo competition in aid of Bri, the young food blogger who has breast cancer.

Here is my offering. A tofu smoothie in a recycled glass held up against my yellow lampshade (with yellow scarf draped over the door).

Tofu is a miracle food because it’s protein-rich but incredibly light and easy-to-digest. Made from bean curd, it’s a great invalid food because meat and dairy can be a bit hardcore when you are feeling weak.

Even chewing can be hardcore. So I blended everything and all you have to do is sip this creamy smoothie, gently.

I whizzed up 225g tofu, 2 tablespoons of ground almonds (or same amounts of peanut butter/almond butter), one sliced banana, 300 mls (half pint) rice milk and a teaspoon of cinnamon (and the same of turmeric for yellow-colour and its fabulous health properties).

Below, I pictured the half-empty tofu packet as well as a Tibetan mandala puja ceremony I went to at the Pierian centre today. The monk had spent the last week (it was Refugee week) making a mandala from rainbow-coloured sand but today he dismantled it, prayerfully.

We followed him to Bristol’s river Frome where he cast the sand grains into the water, a reminder of both life’s impermanence and the eternal and reviving now.

Tofu in a bagTibetan mandala puja ceremonyMandala puja ceremony

Tamarind and green tea noodles

Green tea noodles and tamarind stir fry

Cooking is like dancing – to keep it fresh you need to learn new steps.

Thanks to Mallika’s Quick Indian Cooking, I have added curry leaves and tamarind to my repertoire.

I had to improvise with the other ingredients.

Tonight was cold and misty so instead of eating grated organic carrots as a salad, I fried them in olive oil. In this bold mood, I also fried organic alfafa sprouts, the first time ever.

At the carrot stage, I also fried ten dried curry leaves, which wilted aromatically – not scary at all. Then mustard seeds and a teaspoon of tamarind paste.

I could not resist adding a quarter of a tin of coconut milk and snippets of dried chilli for spicy creaminess.

I finished off a packet of organic cha sob green tea noodles that had been lurking in my store cupboard – they only took three minutes to cook.

It was a quick supper to make and delightful to eat, while the tamarind emparted a tart lemony-lusciousness – my new exciting dance step, definitely.

Brown rice, chives – and chewing

Brown rice and chives

When all else fails nothing beats a bowl of brown rice. It is a soothing superfood. With its husk still intact, brown rice brings strength – more vitamins and fibre than its denuded sister, white rice.

My brown rice is organic – what’s the point of eating a superfood if sprayed with chemicals?

I added chopped chives (and its mauve flower), olive oil and a tiny smattering of Atlantic salt to the cooked rice.

Organic brown rice a store cupboard-must because it’s nutritious, economical and sits there Buddha-like till needed.

It requires little attention while cooking. One mug of rice does for two, generously. Add to a pan with twice the amount of water (2 mugs of water for one of brown rice) and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes with the lid on. Brown rice is soft and chewy when cooked.

The macrobiotics swear by brown rice and so do I. It’s so yang, it relaxes the digestion and detoxifies.

If you really want to be macrobiotic, you stay in the moment while eating it. Spiritual warriors aim for 50 chews a mouthful to calm their mind and their digestion.

I can manage about four mouthfuls of conscious chewing before my natural impatience takes over.

How many chews do you give a mouthful?

Kamut risotto with nettles and gorse flowers

Kamut wih nettles and gorse flowers

This dish is a bit like an Oscar-award winning ceremony so bear with me while I thank a few people.

Firstly Elena Renier for inspiring me to use nettle tops in a risotto. Secondly Chloë for telling me on a walk over the cliff path at Cockington in north Devon that gorse flowers are both edible – and nature’s cure for depression.

I have always loved the spiky gorse bushes’ bright yellow flowers but when I found out I could eat them – and have a mood-change into the bargain – I was ecstatic! (Or was it the gorse petals I was munching en route?).

So, back in the kitchen, I fried a sliced onion and added a mug of kamut grain (instead of rice) to the hot olive oil. Then I poured in two mugs of water, added a pinch of rock salt and let it all simmer for 30 minutes.

I washed the nettle tops that Mike had kindly helped me pick (another Oscar thank you to him) and snipped the plentiful dark green leaves (six ounces in weight) with scissors so they fitted in the pan. They took about ten minutes to wilt and add their wonderful creamy spinach-y taste.

I love nettles! I cannot believe that eight days ago I was a nettle-picking virgin. My first use in nettle soup is here.

It’s Be Nice to Nettles Week soon (14 – 25 May 2008) when we stop thinking of them as nasty weeds and realise how wonderful they are.

I know nettles sting if you forget your gloves or do not use the proper ‘folding’ procedure but I do not care. The sting is not dangerous and may even be good for me.

The world faces a rice shortage so can I do my bit by eating kamut grain instead? I have selfish reasons too for I have come to love this bursting-with-health grain.

So, oscar-thanks to the universe for providing good things to eat.

Oh, and universe, while I am in prayerful mode, please knock sense into the powers-that-be to ensure food is shared more fairly and no one goes starving.

Thank you (she says, waving her metaphorical statuette in the air and leaving the stage).

I love hummus

A blog of hummous on toast made with spelt on a plate

One of the best things about not being in the office this week was having time to make hummus. I ended up making several batches, each as subtly different as the last.

I kicked off with 200g dried organic chickpeas (from some supermarkets and all wholefood shops). Hard as bullets, I soaked them overnight in water and then cooked them (in the same water) for an hour until soft enough to eat. Of course, you can use tins for speed and this is a fab recipe.

(Mind you, the comments in above website were also instructive. I learnt I could use roasted sesame seeds instead of tahini. I had panicked because no exotic tahini could be found in this English seaside town. Luckily my saviour, Marshford, had a jar or two of the wondrous middle-eastern sesame seed paste.)

Using the hand-held blender, I noisily blended one clove of garlic (use more if no one objects) in the juice of one lemon, water from the cooked chickpeas (2 Tbs – that’s table not teaspoons!), olive oil (2 Tbs) and the yummy, runny, organic sesame seed paste (2 Tbs).  I added rock salt to taste (being careful not to oversalt – so easy to do), and a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander.

Once all the easy bits were blended, I added the fibrous chickpeas and mashed through them with my trusted electric tool.

I have written about hummus before but it is a food that bears repetition. And experimentation. When I ran out of lemon juice, I used lime and no one noticed.

Served with toast (in my case, spelt from the wondrous Common Loaf), I produced a nutrient-rich and high-fibre protein-filled snack.

The vegetarians and the world’s wise peasants know that combining pulses with grains (and subsituting, if you wish, pulses/grains for seeds) makes a protein equal to that delivered by the dear animals.