Organic September and Chinese-Style French Beans

Hello everyone, today is the first day of Autumn! 🙂

Many bloggers have been writing about feeling “Autumnal” since the end of August, but I am only starting to feel like that now, also because for the past few days it’s been quite warm here…

But, if you are feeling the chilly weather and thinking of sorting out your wardrobe and bringing out all the A/W clothing, don’t forget that it’s easy to dispose of clothes you don’t want anymore sustainably, as you can:

We’ve been having Summer vegetables that are still in season as much as possible: groovy grilled aubergines, fried&steamed broccoli, crunchy carrots, fresh chillies, grilled courgettes, cucumbers in salads, frightfully addictive French beans, garlic, lettuce, sweet mangetout, onions, organic potatoes, Spring onions, tomatoes… and yesterday I got some newly seasonal sweetcorn and butternut squash too.

Graffiti Aubergine

Pretty Graffiti Aubergine

I have been grilling vegetables until soft and caramelised to have in seasonal salads too 🙂

Grilled Organic Spring Onions, Courgettes and Aubergines

Grilled Organic Spring Onions, Courgettes and Aubergines

At the supermarket, organic vegetables have a “Celebrate Organic September” sticker on them at the moment, this is an initiative launched by the Soil Association to encourage us to make small changes  and a big difference by choosing organic products.

Just a few days ago I saw this picture on Janina’s Food (Policy) for Thought blog:

Organic Makes a Difference

Organic Makes a Difference

This is what I like to encourage when I buy organic food.

Some may think organic is “double the price, and not better than the rest anyway!” but what they forget is that organic means without pesticides which are harmful for you, for children and which pollute soil and water (and fortunately organic food is not often as much as double the price!).

I bought a few organic vegetables such as potatoes and peppers, especially because they are part of the “Dirty Dozen” fruit and vegetables which contain the most residual pesticides and chemicals in them and really worth buying organic whenever possible.

Organic, seasonal and reduced in price

Organic, seasonal and reduced up to half the price

Organic, pesticide-free peppers

Organic, pesticide-free peppers

Peppers sold individually are usually 80p or 90p, so £1.85 for 2 organic peppers wasn’t far off.

Organic Butternut Squash and UK Potatoes

Organic Butternut Squash and UK Potatoes

The organic butternut squash was £1 down from £1.49 and so the same price as non-organic ones.

The organic potatoes were £1.57 per kg, so slightly more expensive than some types of potato but not as expensive as others either.

I had those lovely organic tomatoes, together with some orange ones, for a bruschetta with our amazing fresh basil.

Organic and orange tomato bruschetta

Organic and orange tomato bruschetta

Last night we enjoyed a couple of Wild Berry Rekorderlig ciders, they are so delicious!!

Wild Berry Rekorderlig

Wild Berry Rekorderlig – vegan

My boyfriend made us some lovely corn on the cob to have with them, he simply cooked the corn a few minutes in the microwave then blistered it directly on the hob to give it a smoky flavour and an added crunch, then added chilli flakes and salt on the plate, WOW!!!

Seasonal Corn on the Cob

Seasonal Corn on the Cob

Then it was time for home-made fresh organic rosemary, garlic and chilli crisps with a balsamic vinegar and fresh garlic dip!

Home-made organic crisps

Home-made organic crisps

And today, he made a fragrant and surprisingly creamy vegan soup.

Creamy and velvety seasonal vegan soup

Creamy and velvety seasonal vegan soup

He made this soup by softening organic potatoes, carrots, French beans, an onion, garlic, garam masala and chilli for a few minutes. Then he added them to a pan with organic stock in it, cooked them through and blended them. He added more chopped garlic and peppers for added crunch and texture and garnished it with sliced organic peppers and some of our fresh parsley.

It was warming, spicy and extremely tasty, especially with all the aromas from the garam masala. I tend to prefer chunky soups but this was really lovely and look forward to having some more soon!

I hope showing you what we’ve been enjoying can inspire you, and show that it can be easy and not expensive to eat more sustainably and following the seasons, plus all of these vegetables are so healthy!

I would also like to share a very quick recipe to make French beans in about…8 minutes or so.

I first came across and tried this recipe when I was 18, so about 7 years ago, on my Italian Chinese cuisine book.

It uses few ingredients and does not involve any boiling to death.

Only using a little oil, the French beans (or dwarf beans) are quickly stir-fried, softened, made crispy by the medium-high flame and retain their refreshing crispness and crunch. The garlic and sesame oil give them an amazing taste, the soy sauce seasons them and the chilli gives them a pleasant warmth and kick.

You can make them with the honey or without, for a vegan version. I have been making them regularly with no honey and I must say I don’t miss it, the main flavour comes from the rest of the ingredients, the honey would add a bit of sticky sweetness.

These are absolutely amazing, I can’t really describe how much I adore them. Great servedwith rice and crispy tofu.

You could experiment with this quick-cooking method and add different spices too, or use other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts.

Chinese-style French beans ingredients

Chinese-style French beans ingredients

Stir-fried French Beans – serves 4

Ingredients

  • 450g French beans
  • 1 or 2 fresh chillies, chopped
  • 2tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2tsp honey (optional)
  • 1tsp sesame oil

-Prepare the beans by taking the tips off and cutting them in half or bite-size length;

Prepare the French beans

Prepare the French beans

-Heat the oil in a pan until very hot, add the beans and cook on a medium-high heat for 3 minutes;

-add the chillies and the garlic and cook for a minute;

-Add the soy sauce, the honey if you are using it and the sesame oil;

-Cook for another 2 minutes to let the fragrant flavours mingle and serve.

Crunchy Crispy Chinese French Beans

Crunchy Crispy Chinese French Beans

Do you buy any organic vegetables? Which ones?

Are you looking forward to Autumn?

Jersey Royals, Crispy Tofu and Travelling Treats

Hello everyone, it’s June! How did it get to this month so quickly?!

I’ve been trying lots of new recipes using seasonal vegetables recently, including asparagus, broccoli, Jersey Royal New Potatoes, lettuce, radishes, spinach and spring onion!

I also had a go at making home-made bread for the first time and it was great! 🙂

So this will be, once again, a sustainable, meat free and cruelty free vegan recipes post!

…Let’s start!

 

Spinach, round lettuce, radishes, caramelised spring onion and shallot salad

Spinach, round lettuce, radishes, caramelised spring onion and shallot salad + potatoes and beans

This was a super lovely salad made by simply combining seasonal fresh UK spinach, UK round lettuce, sliced radishes and I also added caramelised spring onions and shallots (which aren’t really in season anymore but were reduced to clear so I saved them from the bin).

I caramelised the spring onions and shallots by cooking them for about 8 minutes on a low heat and adding balsamic vinegar at the end, they were so tasty and delicious!

I had the salad with a bowl of new potatoes with chopped tomatoes and cannellini beans, seasoned with chilli and garnished with fresh parsley, also in season.

I made the roll in the picture, it was with sun-dried tomatoes and herbs 🙂

 

Home made sun dried tomato and herbs rolls

Home made sun-dried tomato and herbs rolls

 

Home Made Wholemeal Loaf

Home Made Wholemeal Loaf

I also finally made asparagus, I’ve been waiting all year for them to be in season again as there is so much emphasis on eating asparagus as fresh as possible to enjoy their flavour at the very best.

 

Herefordshire Asparagus

Herefordshire Asparagus

I was confused  because this packet of asparagus from Herefordshire was 3 times more expensive than asparagus flown in from Italy 😦 fortunately today I got some more and it was £1 for a bunch and from nearby Kent.

We had it griddled for a few minutes with salt and freshly cracked pepper and a few sun-dried tomatoes, plus another home-made roll dipped in extra virgin oil, so simple and DELICIOUS!!

 

Herefordshire asparagus with sun dried tomatoes and a home made roll :)

Herefordshire asparagus with sun-dried tomatoes and a home-made roll 🙂

Another lovely seasonal vegetable we have had are Jersey Royal New Potatoes. I think there is a lot of buzz for both Jersey Royals and asparagus because they are both British vegetables which are really loved and which have relatively short seasonal availability.

Jersey Royals have been grown on the British island of Jersey, just off the North – West coast of France, for 130 years.

The have a lovely firm and waxy texture, with a delicate nutty flavour. I got more today, they are bubbling away as I type, and they were half price, £2 for a Kg in Morrisons.

As I hadn’t made them before, I went to the Jersey Royals website and tried their chilli and lime recipe, it was lovely.

  • I brought a large pan of salted water to the boil, added the potatoes and simmered them for about 12 minutes, drained them and added them to a pan where I had heated some chilli flakes in some olive oil, lime juice and rind for about 2 minutes and heated it all through. I garnished them with fresh parsley.
Jersey Royals New Potatoes with chilli and lime

Jersey Royals New Potatoes with chilli and lime

 

And last but not least, I have tried a really excellent recipe which uses spring onions and tofu.

I got the inspiration from the Crisp tofu with ginger and chili from the BBC Good Food website.

It’s so tasty and fragrant, I took some to work and my colleagues were asking what I smelt so appetising.

I tweaked the recipe a bit: the original one uses 2cm of oil to deep fry the tofu but I just used a couple of table spoons of oil on a high heat and it worked really well.

I served this with rice noodles as they just need soaking in water from a kettle for a few minutes, perfect for a conveniently speedy tasty healthy meal!

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 1 Pack of tofu (about 450g) drained and cut into cubes
  • Flour for dusting
  • Sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • A large piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • A fresh red chilli, sliced or a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 Shallots cut into thin rings or a medium red onion finely sliced
  • 5 Spring onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp black, red or white rice vinegar or ordinary malt vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (I actually didn’t have it so didn’t use it)
  • Steamed rice or rice noodles to serve

-Dust the tofu in the flour, I did this in a tupperware box

-Fry the tofu until crispy and lift it out of the pan.

-Add the ginger, chilli, shallot or red onion and spring onions and stir fry rapidly, the add the rice vinegar (or ordinary vinegar), sesame oil and mirin and serve on top of the tofu with the rice or rice noodles.

 

Crispy tofu with chilli, ginger and spring onions

Crispy tofu with chilli, ginger and spring onions

Enjoy! 😀

 

We are about to go on a 2-week holiday to Florida so I found some nice vegan treats for the journey, I got chocolate and raspberry cereal bars from Morrisons which happen to be vegan and high in fibre, sunflower seeds and oats Ryvitas and Bear Yo Yos!

Vegan Snacks: Cereal Bars, Ryvitas and Fruit Bear Yo Yos

Vegan Snacks: Cereal Bars, Ryvitas and Fruit Bear Yo Yos

I have seen these Bear Yo Yos before but never tried them, I wanted something handy to carry and healthy for the journey and they seem perfect! They are pure fruit rolls, and 1 of your 5 a day! They look great for children too.

I got the raspberry ones and they contain apples, pears, raspberries, sweet potato extract and “no added nonsense”.

They are 69p at Holland and Barret’s but you can get them cheaper supermarkets’ multipacks as well.

 

Have you tried any new recipes using seasonal ingredients?

What snacks and food do you choose when travelling?

Seasonal Treats: Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Happy month of May! 🙂

When the sun stops hiding behind cloths of clouds it’s lovely to feel its warmth, and even though this morning was still chilly I have cut my daily portion of socks to one pair rather than two!

With warmer temperatures new crops can thrive, so I have been continuing my seasonal vegetables adventures and tried purple sprouting broccoli…even though I heard that some vegetables have been a little late due to our extra long Winter.

A few weeks ago we went shopping on a week day night and there was a mountain of “reduced to clear” vegetables. I bought half of that mountain of goodness.

 

Reduced to clear vegetables

Reduced to clear vegetables

 

I got 3 500g packs of organic carrots from the U.K., they were 19p each instead of £1. I also got a pack of seasonal purple sprouting broccoli which were 25p instead of £1.49 and a pack of broccoli and cauliflower for 25p instead of £1.29, so not only I spent a fraction of their price but these vegetables avoided being thrown away.

Of course they were reduced because of the use by date, but most vegetables (especially carrots) last a lot longer than the dates that supermarkets place on them, so nothing was wasted at all. As usual if in doubt Still Tasty is a great website for extra guidance on the best way and how long to keep food safely.

Pretty orange and yellow British organic carrots

Pretty orange and yellow British organic carrots

 

With so many vegetables I decided to make a big tray of roasted vegetables, with added shallots – which were still in season then – organic rosemary and garlic and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Roasted vegetables - organic, seasonal, saved from being wasted

Roasted vegetables – organic, seasonal, saved from being wasted

I wanted to make the purple sprouting broccoli separately so I cooked them on the griddle pan with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Purple sprouting broccoli are really pretty and tasty, I had never tried them before but I’m glad I discovered them thanks to my seasonal veg mania. They are different in shape to ordinary broccoli and really look like little trees, you eat the stalk and they are great steamed, boiled and they had a nice bite when I made them on the griddle pan.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli Natural Beauty

Purple Sprouting Broccoli Natural Beauty

 

Lovely vegetables

Lovely vegetables

 

I had them with some vegetarian nut roast (which was also reduced to clear) for a sustainable super filling and tasty meal:

 

Sustainable vegetables and nut roast

Sustainable vegetables and nut roast

 

I bought PSB (yes, purple sprouting broccoli 😛 ) again at the weekend and made a very Italian-style recipe inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe on the Guardian website.

Italian-style because it’s a really simple pasta meal where the vegetable used, in this case PSB, is the complete star of the dish and the ingredients are few but great. Another famous veg-pasta combination is orecchiette with broccoli.

I used whole wheat pasta to make it healthier and less processed and this dish is quick (15 minutes), healthy and vegan.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli Pasta – 4 portions

  • 350g Whole wheat pasta
  • 200g or 300g of purple sprouting broccoli
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 Cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

-Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add salt and the pasta. Cook until very al dente. Trim the ends of the purple sprouting broccoli and cut them in easy-to-eat pieces and add them to the pot about 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked.

-In the meantime heat the oil in a pan and add the chilli and garlic, once the pasta is cooked drain it and add it to the pan, tossing it in the lovely garlic and chilli oil, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Wholewheat pasta with purple sprouting broccoli - Seasonal and vegan

Whole wheat pasta with purple sprouting broccoli – Seasonal and vegan

Enjoy!

 

Have you ever tried purple sprouting broccoli?

Do you sometimes buy reduced to clear food?

Delicious: Stuffed Aubergines with Feta Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onions

I was recommended to try this stuffed aubergines recipe and it was utterly delicious!

Even those whose who don’t usually like aubergines will love this summery dish. (My boyfriend is a great example).

You may think that stuffing vegetables is fiddly and time-consuming but although it takes just over an hour to prepare and cook this dish, it’s really simple.

I actually wanted to post this recipe a few weeks ago as aubergines are truly in season in July, August and September but it’s only the beginning of October now. This dish bursts with so much flavour, it will give you a lovely Summer feeling despite the cooling weather (at least here in the U.K.!).

I served these aubergines with fresh corn on the cob, great in September and October. I have been buying it regularly at the market as they have been selling 3 cobs for £1 for a few weeks now, which is cheaper than the supermarket prices and kept in its beautifully natural casing of long enveloping green leaves and soft golden strings.

Tasty fresh corn on the cob

I have also been enjoying corn on the cob as a quick, healthy, sustainable and cheap snack, cooked in the microwave on a plate with a few drops of water for about 7-8 minutes.

The recipe for these aubergines used dill, I tried it with parsley instead, I’m certain both versions are to die for!

If you would like to serve the aubergines with corn on the cob, add them to the oven and cook them for 30 minutes, without removing their leaves, as suggested by J-F from 222 Million Tons.

Stuffed Aubergines with Feta Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Red Onions

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

Time: it takes 15 minutes to prepare and 55 minutes to cook

Ingredients

  • 2 Aubergines, halved lengthways
  • 200g Cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Red onions, sliced into thin wedges
  • 4 Unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g Feta cheese, crumbled (I always check it is vegetarian)
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper

-Preheat the oven to 200C (180C for a fan oven)

-Use a sharp knife to criss-cross the flesh side of the halved aubergines

-Transfer to a baking tray and add the tomatoes, onions and garlic, drizzle with the olive oil, season and bake for 30 minutes

Aubergines, onions, tomatoes…ready to bake into deliciousness

-After 30 minutes, remove the onions, tomatoes and garlic from the tray and set them aside into a bowl

-Return the aubergines to the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the flesh is really soft (if you are serving the corn on the cob with the dish, add it to the oven now)

Amazing sweet and soft roasted garlic

-Squeeze the garlic out of its skin, take the aubergines out of the oven and scoop out their flesh (do not discard the aubergine skins) and roughly chop them together, then transfer to the bowl where you left the other vegetables

The flesh becomes really soft and easy to scoop out

-Gently stir in the feta and most of the parsley, season and then fill the aubergines skins with the yummy mix

Feta and parsley to bring it all together

-Return to the over to warm through for 15 minutes

-Scatter the remaining parsley and serve with corn on the cob

Enjoy!!

Stuffed Aubergines and Corn on the Cob

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, it was the first time I made stuffed aubergines and certainly not the last! 🙂

Have you tried stuffed aubergines before?

Grilled Asparagus and Sun Blushed Tomatoes

Asparagus = delicious little trees.

Asparagus are one of May’s best vegetables but they are still in season in June with artichokes, aubergines, broad beans, courgettes, carrots, strawberries, cherries… Check the seasonal wheel  for even more delicious seasonal fruit&veg.

It seems like every year around April the “asparagus talk” starts and TV programmes, ads and chefs all become a bit obsessed and excited about British asparagus.

And so will I next year!

I bought some asparagus the other day and tried a very simple but absolutely delicious vegan recipe.We loved it so 1 bunch was just fine for 2 of us and it took about 10 minutes to make.

I got this bunch from Morrison’s for £1 and got more British asparagus from the market, 2 bunches for £2!

Grilled Asparagus with Sun Blushed Tomatoes

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 1 Bunch of asparagus, washed (try to buy them grown in your own country for extra sustainability)
  • 4 or 6 sun blushed tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar

-First of all, get rid of the woody extremities of the asparagus spears. I did this by holding each spear and bending it until the hard bit would snap off. It’s really much fun to do this 😉

Morrison’s British Asparagus from Kent

-Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a griddle pan over a medium heat and place the asparagus and sun blushed tomatoes on it;

-Let the asparagus sizzle for about 5 minutes if you want them to keep al dente, 8 minutes for softer asparagus;

Grilled Asparagus and Sun Blushed Tomatoes

-Keep an eye on them and turn regularly until they are golden, season with salt and pepper;

-Serve onto a plate and add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the pan, letting it bubble for about 20 seconds and letting it reduce a little;

Let the balsamic vinegar sizzle away and reduce

-Drizzle the balsamic vinegar onto the asparagus and sun blushed tomatoes and enjoy!

Drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar and Enjoy!

This is a great starter or side dish, summery and delectable.

I also made it again and turned it into a delicious main meal by adding spaghetti and cherry tomatoes to it.

Grilled asparagus, sun blushed and cherry tomatoes pasta

Do you like asparagus?

What’s your favourite way of having asparagus?