Harissa Happiness

I had a hankering for spice today, and we just happened to have bought a bulk order of Al Fez Harissa (both red and green) from Suma recently – so I went with something with a bit of a North African twist.

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Aubergine is one of the most amazing things in the world. And when it’s first griddled, and then baked until meltingly soft, and smothered in green harissa it becomes almost supernatural in it’s perfection.

I’m also, as you may already know, a HUGE fan of okra. Here’s a tip for you – if you don’t want your okra going slimy, or breaking down in your sauce – toss it in lemon juice, salt and oil and roast it until the skin bubbles – chuck it in whatever sauce you’re cooking at the last minute. Alternatively you could always take a leaf out of Bundobust‘s book and make okra fries. (These WILL make an appearance on the blog in the future – I set out to copy them the first time I tasted them.). If you aren’t familiar with Bundobust – it’s a craft beer bar in Leeds that also serves amazing vegetarian Indian street food.

The sauce for the okra is loosely based on one I first tasted in Empires Cafe in Edinburgh. It’s made from charred tomatoes and red peppers, flavoured with ALL the garlic, lemon juice, paprika and a generous amount of red harissa.

The couscous has pumpkin seeds and rocket through it, and is flavoured with black pepper and ajwain seeds. I’ve only recently discovered ajwain seeds, and love their thymey/minty flavour.

Last, but not least, the chickpeas. My wife had really gone off chickpeas (ok, maybe I *might* have added them to just about every meal for a while) – but then I introduced her to ROASTED CRISPY chickpeas. It’s just a tin of chickpeas (don’t forget to keep the amazing AQUAFABA to use as an egg substitute!), tossed in olive oil, smoked salt, smoked paprika and roasted. Then, just before serving, coat them in a teaspoon of red harissa (that might actually be the first specific measurement on this entire food blog!).

Goes rather nicely with a fruity red wine 🙂

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Sunday Roast.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a good old fashioned roast dinner….

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Roast dinners are, I’d imagine, one of those meals that omnivores are baffled by vegan versions of – unless you substitute the meat for some processed blob of fake chicken with awful “stuffing” in the middle. For me though, even back in my old meat eating days, roasts were always about the veg – so why bother replacing anything?

Top left clockwise – Roasted butternut squash (with sesame oil and smoked salt), on a bed of steamed and baked white cabbage. Roasted “hassleback” potatoes, with olive oil and za’atar. And stuffing balls, with red onion, sage, walnuts and breadcrumbs made from homemade malted sourdough.

All well and good, but it’s not a Sunday Roast without GRAVY!!

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Red onion, sage and garlic gravy. Fried off the onions and started a simple roux off, then added the sage and garlic, then gently poured in veg stock, stirring all the time to stop the gravy from going lumpy. Added a little soy sauce for colour and extra umame. Washed down with a nice bottle of Sainsbury’s “Winemakers Selection” Reciente Rioja. Sainsbury’s are getting very good with their vegan labeling these days.

An Italian feast with a difference.

I feel a bit dirty saying this, but this dish was inspired by…. Jamie Oliver.

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Sometimes we watch mindless drivel on 4od just like everyone else.

This time around it was “Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feasts” – or whatever it’s called. Jamie Oliver was there, with his big rubbery lips, tearing up a variety of game birds and throwing the grease around everywhere, before slopping it onto a huge pile of polenta.

Oddly, this made me wonder what it’d be like to do a similar dish with some of my favourite veggies.

Polenta’s one of those things i’d been wary of for years. I’d first tried to cook it many many years ago and it turned out grainy and horrible. This time around, I got it right. The trick is to keep it moving, and sieve in the cornmeal to avoid the lumps. I added some Violife vegan cheese to this one, and it really enriched it.

On the veggie front – fennel, asparagus, red onion, red kale – griddled, roasted, crispy and delicious.

Then a simple red wine, veg stock and garlic reduction poured over the top.

Add even more red wine – party on a plate!