Tag Archives: vegetarian

Tahini sauce 

Sauce drips in a stream from a spoon

This image and recipe comes from a new book, Lebanese Home Cooking, by Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Lebanon’s first farmers’ market.

Lebanese Home Cooking, from Quarto Eats, has all my favourite food words in its title. In the 1980s a friend took me to a Lebanese restaurant in Soho and I was knocked out. Every dish appealed in new, refreshing ways. Tahini, beans, yogurt, lemons, olive oil, garlic. These are now my favourite ingredients. Versatile and health-giving, they are always in the kitchen.

(My posts on making home-made yogurt and hummus both of which I eat almost daily).

Writing about the Lebanese market founded in 2004, The New York Times says that Souk El Tayeb (“market of good”): “reconciles Lebanon’s warring factions through their common love of their food.”

Kamal Mouzawak writes: Food is a window – “the best way to look into people’s lives.”

Make food, not war.

Kamal Mouzawak is full of practical wisdom and inspiring encouragement. The recipes are simple. He says souk food is easy and fast – how I like to cook.

Tahini sauce – Tarator 

Garlic 1 clove or more

240g tahini (sesame paste)

Juice of 3 lemons

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Crush garlic with little salt, add to tahini in the bowl, and add the lemon juice. Tahini will thicken so continue stirring with a fork and add more lemon juice if needed. The mixture will be smooth. Season with salt to taste, blend in olive oil and serve. Good over dark leafy vegetables.

Fava bean stew – foul medamass

I love the addition of quartered lemons to this fava bean stew.

120g small brown beans

1 onion peeled halved


Handful split yellow lentils

1 lemon plus juice of 2 lemons

80 ml olive oil

Ground cumin and salt.

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Add onion halves, garlic and lentils. Add water to cover by 2 fingers. Cook beans for several hours to be mushy. Add quartered lemons 20 minutes before the end. Take off heat and add lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and salt to taste.

Souk food – soul food.

PS On the subject of tahini sauce, I came across this amazing recipe by UK chef and co-owner of Wahaca, Thomasina: Tagliatelle with blue cheese, tahini and caramelised onions. Straining the yogurt and adding tahini makes this into a luxurious and creamy dish, yet it is light too. Comfort food – recommend!

The original recipe (serves 4-6). Here follows my mini-version:

Cook 900g sliced onions slowly (25 mins) in 4 teaspoons olive oil + 30g butter. Cook 450g pasta (I use buckwheat noodles), adding 300g frozen peas in the last three minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and peas but keep 250ml of the cooking water. Strain 450g of Greek natural yogurt. (I added the residual ‘yogurt water’ to the pasta cooking water because I hate waste.).

Put pasta in a bowl. Beat reserved pasta water into strained yogurt, and season. Then add to pasta, so it absorbs sauce for a few minutes. Add more of the cooking water gradually until you have a “silky pile of pasta”. Crumble 100g blue cheese over your luxurious pasta pile, and top with the caramelised onions.

Exterior of Byblos with yellow awning with lettering, Mezza of Lebanon

And, finally, a picture of Rafic’s (see comments) Lebanese restaurant in London. Mezza of Lebanon (1968 – 2004) was at 262 Kensington High Street, near Holland Park.

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?


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Starhawk and pot luck

It’s not every day you meet a witch. The American pagan peace activist and writer Starhawk was giving a workshop on a nearby farm. We all bought a vegetarian offering for the shared lunch (see above).

Food brings people together and if everyone brings a dish, it’s not hard work to feed 30. The tastes may be pot luck but they miraculously get on well.

Starhawk shared with us some magical methods for keeping our spirits up while saving the world. She said, try to be in nature every day for fifteen minutes. Take time to wonder at how that leaf falls or green shoots burst out of a cracked pavement, and use your physical senses to ground you.

Radford Mill Farm was the perfect setting. We closed our eyes and heard the wind in the trees and the birds, calling. We opened them and walked barefoot on the wet grass. We felt the sun on our backs and saw the sky. I felt like a cooped-up chicken allowed to go free range.

Green activists live with the doom-reality of an impending environmental crisis but they are remarkably upbeat, probably because they are doing something to make the world a better place.

Starhawk’s talk was organised by Sarah Pugh, the Transition Bristol maven. Transition Culture is about getting self-sufficient so when supermarket shelves are empty and petrol pumps are dry, we have by this time learnt to grow our own veg (and guard our allotments from the marauding hordes?).

Our vegetables will have to be organic when oil is scarce. Non-organic farming relies on oil to make chemical fertiliser in factories. As oil prices rise, so does the cost of food. Organic farming has no need for gallons of oil. It makes its fertiliser on the farm, courtesy of the sun.

Radford Mill Farm is converting to organic and is set on making it a community affair. The official term is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA for those in the know). Originally from the US, it’s about sharing a farm’s responsibilities – and rewards. You commit in advance, with cash or in kind, and in return get a share of the harvest.

When the going gets tough, we will need our family farms more than ever. Adopt one now!

Below is a picture of Starhawk listening to Siobhan, a co-founder of Tribe of Doris, the UK’s most prestigious cultural festival. Here’s a tip for keeping cheerful: if you want to learn to dance or play music and can live under canvas for a convivial few days over the Bank Holiday weekend, then that’s the festival for you. (And don’t forget Climate Camp next week).

Beetroot and lentils supreme

dark beetroot and lentils topped with yogurt on a bed of cooked millet

I peeled two beetroots from Marshford. After cutting the slithery vivid purple ones (careful not to stain my clothes) into chunks, I added them to a pan of green lentils, just covered with water. I’d soaked the dried green lentils for a couple of hours beforehand but for speed, use a can. Or red split lentils which don’t need soaking.

Within 40 minutes of simmering, the lentils and beetroot were tender. I added a teaspoon of salt for flavouring (I love salt. It makes what is bland tasty. But I must be careful not to be cavalier because over-salty is horrid not to mention unhealthy.).

To make this dish go further, I simmered some organic millet for 30 minutes in twice its volume of water. What a fine grain millet is! Gluten-free and nutrient-filled. Try it sometimes instead of rice to vary the minerals in your diet. Here are some more cooking instructions.

Then we topped the dark beetroot/lentil mixture with Greek yogurt. I also added capers because I love the vinegar they reside in.

For its photo-shoot, I placed the bowl on a book (picked up secondhand in an Oxfam shop) by one of my top-favourite cartoonists, Posy Simmonds.

How appropriate the book had fallen open at jealousy! (An emotion to which I confess I am prone.)

Lentils – real fast

I love eating real food. In fact my body demands it.

“Give me substance,” it commands.

Real food is as close to its natural state as it can get. Not air-fluffed or chemical-dependent.

Organic red lentils are real. They make me sigh with happiness. And cook up pretty fast. About 20 minutes. Less if you soak them beforehand.

If you cook porridge, you can do lentils. Just add water to cover (a full handful of lentils per person), simmer, and stir to stop any cooked lentils sticking to the pan. Too dry? Add tablespoons of water. Too wet? Let it simmer a bit longer. Stir the pot to stop it sticking. Stirring also encourages a satisfying mush.

Things you can add for taste are endless. I used to love lemon juice and mushrooms (mixed into the cooked lentils) now I like slivers of chilli pepper (added at the start). Fresh chopped coriander is good (mixed in last), so is coconut slivered from a block (add to the simmering pot).

What would you add to a dish of warm, soothing lentils?

I hate tomatoes

Today is the most depressing day of the year. A perfect time for a rant. Well, a mini-rant.

Have you noticed how many vegetarian dishes contain tomatoes?

These are the very things I can’t eat. I am not alone here. An intolerance of tomatoes (especially raw) is very common.

If you can’t live without tomato products, try Nomato. Sold in the UK, they substitute the dreaded red slimy things with yummy beetroots and carrots.

That reminds me: can anything beat a salad of beet? Grated raw beetroot and carrots (organic of course for extra nutrients and no pesticides) with an olive oil dressing and a sprinkling of roasted sunflower seeds…

That makes me feel more positive already.