Lettuce be happy: post-degree salads & alfresco dining

If there’s one thing I’ll learn from completing my undergraduate degree, it’s to not stock up on so many grains when your landlady’s contract only lasts for 11 months. It’s also to not get cosy in a beautiful kitchen that’s only on loan to you – (we lucked out, and got the most gorgeous house for the Exetah’ student going rate). I’ll never own a kitchen this nice again. Especially with an English literature BA. And now I’m lumped with shit loads of pearl barely, couscous, polenta, and debt.

There’s something really ominous about finishing your degree. The majority of us are currently in limbo until our graduation ceremony: too qualified to work in Tesco’s and too inexperienced to work for Penguin publishing house. It seems that reading all that Barthes and Foucault amounted to nothing. Temporarily. Thankfully, I’m motivated by learning and the thrill of it, and not by money – so I’m due to move to Glasgow this September to study an MLitt (Scottish alternative to MA) in English literature: Modernities. I’m so bloody excited. But I still need to get rid of all these grains.

I can’t come to terms with the fact that I’ll be leaving behind some of the greatest friends I’ve made at university. Consequently, I’ve been inviting friends round for dinner frequently and we’ve been enjoying the meals in the garden. These two salad dishes are sociable, economical and they make your heart happy. Both vegan and served at whatever temperature you fancy. Here’s to good health and to promising futures.

Jaunty post-degree pearl barley salad (serves 4; vegan) (my favourite)

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Thanks Maddy, for use of your Polaroid

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe aubergine, cut into 1.5cm thick disks
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 200g pearl barley
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • Half a bag of lettuce of your choice
  • 100g drained olives
  • Generous handful of dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Generous handful of dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 pomegranate
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Work lunches 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°c. Coat the aubergine disks and sweet potato cubes in olive oil, salt, garlic and all the spices. On baking parchment, spread the veg out and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. While the veg is gently roasting, wash the pearl barley in cold water. Cook on a medium heat on the hob with 200ml water. Once the water is boiled, simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Zest the lemon and combine with the tahini, 1 tbsp olive oil and lemon juice. Prepare the olives and dried fruits by roughly chopping.
  4. Leave the aubergine and sweet potato to cool, and drain the pearl barely if needed. Combine all prepared ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and layer onto a tray of lettuce and sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds to finish.

Lentil tabbouleh (serves 4; vegan) (great with pimms)

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What I like about this one is that it requires minimal cooking and so is great to prepare in advance to a BBQ, or just for packed lunches. Is it socially acceptable to bring pimms to work too? Please ignore the Tesco delivery boxes I used for my haphazard student BBQ. I do think they look quite edgy though.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 tin of pre-cooked green lentils, drained
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 big bunches of coriander and mint, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170ºC. Parboil the sweet potato cubes, drain and coat in all the spices. Sprinkle on the garlic, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  2. While this is in the oven, prepare dice the red onion and tomato. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the fresh ingredients and add the sweet potato once cooked!

 

Berlin reflections

pretzels, bagels, bratwurst, currywurst…and erm, more currywurst

To make my flight €100 cheaper, I stopped off in Berlin for a few days before heading back to London. I found that Berlin had few concrete, fundamental dishes and ingredients that sets it aside from the rest of Europe. The capital certainly has the rest of Germany’s predilection for meat, particularly sausages. But, I was disappointed I couldn’t try the dish most ranted and raved about – that is bratwurst sausage with curry toppings, or ‘currywurst’ – because of dietary requirements. There’s even a museum dedicated to the phenomenon that is ‘currywurst’.

I fell in love with the city; it lives to reflect and learn from its controversial past, with the effect that it now exists as a liberal and lively hub. In the process, it has accumulated a vast array of multicultural cuisines. I ate in authentic Turkish, Italian and Asian restaurants (and many modern vegan eateries that are dispersed throughout the city).

The German bakeries are the city’s redemption. Think pretzels galore. Here’s a ‘streuseltaler’ – a fine yeast dough pastry with a refined butter crumble. It’s essentially an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.

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In East Side Berlin, there was a substantial selection of vegan eateries, to match the cool and hip ambience of this side of the city. Just past the East Side gallery, I came across a building hosting Veganz (a supermarket), Goodies (a vegan café dedicated to great coffee), The Bowl (a clean eating restaurant for the best, beautiful bowls of goodness), and a vegan shoe shop.

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The Bowl boasts a 100% plant-based kitchen, producing gluten and sugar free bowls for a little over €10. I tried went for the ‘California’ bowl from the menu; this was lemon quinoa, deep fried sweet potato sticks, sesame tamari leaf spinach, raw apple carrot salad, avocado slices, tomato coriander salsa and teriyaki hibiscus sauce. (But I also pinched a spoonful of the ‘Buddha’ bowl too from my travel buddy). The ingredients are simple, but the sauces and dressings bring the ingredients to life.

This restaurant refreshed me from a 3 hour urban art walking tour of the East Side gallery and beyond. And it has given me inspiration for new healthy, filling and vegan recipes.

 

 

Aubergine katsu and miso crunch bao buns

Aubergine katsu and miso crunch bao buns makes 4 buns; vegetarian 

tackling this Taiwanese dish; they’re a worthwhile challenge. Here I combine the pillow soft buns with classic Asian flavours. 

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 130g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 30ml whole milk
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil

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  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, caster sugar, yeast and baking powder. Pour in the milk and sunflower oil; mix well until a smooth and stretchy dough is formed. Knead the dough for 10 minutes.
  2. Shape into a ball and wrap in clingfilm. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for approximately 2 hours.
  3. Once the dough has doubled in size, separate into 4 equal-sized balls, weighing approximately 80g each.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls into flat oval shapes. Brush the dough with little sunflower oil. Fold over, placing a chopstick where the crease in the bun will be, so it can be filled with tasty ingredients.
  5. Prepare the steamer (this can be bamboo or stainless steel), and steam the buns in batches for 8 minutes each.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetAubergine katsu bao:

  • 1 small aubergine, sliced into 1cm discs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp katsu curry paste
  • 5g fresh coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. Lightly dust the aubergine discs, then coat in beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs. Fry the coated aubergine in 1 tbsp sunflower oil, for 3 minutes on each side until cooked through andgolden brown.
  2. Gently warm the katsu curry paste, adding the fresh coriander. Fill the steamed buns up with the aubergine discs and curry paste.

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Miso crunch bao:

  • 70g cabbage, roughly shredded
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 small red chilli, sliced
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1tsp dark soy sauce

Method:

  1. Fry the cabbage, spring onions, radishes, garlic, ginger, chilli in miso paste and soy sauce.
  2. Load up the steamed buns with the stir fry.

Salad to serve:

  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Fresh red chilli
  • Cucumber
  • Spring onions
  • A sprinkling of sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce

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Baked avocado eggs

Baked avocado eggs serves 1

baked avocados have a luxurious, c222.jpegreamy texture – they’re just as nice served warm, I promise. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 2 small eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes

To serve: 

  • Halloumi
  • Beetroot
  • Spinach

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut the avocados in half, and remove the stone. For the eggs to fit, you will need to scoop out a little more of the avocado flesh, but be sure to retain the shape.
  3. Arrange the avocado halves on a baking tray. Make sure that they are stable and won’t topple over in the oven. Spoon in the eggs into the avocado holes. Season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. While they’re in the oven, grill the halloumi. Once the eggs are cooked through, plate up and serve with the salad.

Date and cauliflower couscous

Date and cauliflower couscous vegan; serves 2

cauliflower “couscous” is a new trend that’s taking over courgette “spaghetti”. I’ve added some spice and fruit. This will be a unique accompaniment to a summer BBQ. 13692150_1202111379852045_566859860_o 

Ingredients:

  • 400g cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • A handful of dates, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • t tsp ground cumin
  • 100g couscous
  • 40g pomegranate seeds
  • 15g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Method:

  1. Pulse the chopped cauliflower florets in a food processor until it has the consistency of couscous.
  2. Cook the couscous according to the packet instructions.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan. Add the cauliflower and chopped dates in garlic, turmeric and cumin, tossing regularly. Cook until the cauliflower is lightly toasted, and has a rich golden brown colour.
  4. Combine with the couscous. Sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds and coriander, and drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

Grilled aubergine, pomegranate and almond salad

Grilled aubergine, pomegranate and almond salad serves 2; vegetarian 

this filling and nutritious salad has a fruit and nut twist 

Ingredients:

  • 1 aubergine, sliced into 1 cm discs
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds remove13632630_1201197223276794_1438748936_o
  • 1 hass avocado
  • A handful of almonds
  • 1 beetroot, chopped
  • 100g feta, chopped into cubes
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Drizzle of tahini, to serve

Method:

  1. Fry the aubergine in olive oil, salt and chilli flakes, for 3 minutes on each side. You may need to add a dash more oil. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen roll, which will soak up the excess oil.
  2. Keep the heat on, and toast the almonds in the pan for 2 minutes, continuously tossing.
  3. Arrange the aubergine discs on the plate and scatter over the avocado, beetroot, feta, pomegranate and almonds. Drizzle with tahini and a squeeze of lemon.