how to: roast pepper hummus

The beginning of the year is always a hard time to get back into the swing of normalcy and even though we are almost a month into 2016, I am still finding it difficult to function.

The beauty of it being summer means that I can get away with running on 70% manpower; it’s easy and acceptable to focus dinners around salads, masses of raw vegetables and things easy to cook; like corn.

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I recently tried my hand at making hummus; it’s fun, it’s healthy, and because it doesn’t involve any cooking, its quick and stress-free to whip up and still elevates the flavour and vibrancy of even the simplest of dishes.

Here is the recipe I use; it’s the most basic of basic recipes and works as a great template for experimenting with a variety of flavours. I added slow roasted red bell pepper in these photos, but roasted eggplant, olives or even carrots could be used.

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Into the food processor we add: 400grams of chickpeas – that’s one can, 2teaspoons of tahini paste for a rich and nutty sesame flavour, a clove of garlic (or more!), ½ a teaspoon of salt, 3tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil and the juice of ½ a lemon. Top this off with whatever additions you choose and whiz it up until it’s smooth and creamy.

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Summer is the time for cheese boards and meze platters in the sun; a vibrantly coloured bowl of hummus makes a brilliant addition served alongside toasted pita chips, dotted on a pizza or even added to your favourite salad.

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aquafaba meringues (how the internet lied)

I am not one for ‘health foods’ or self-enforced dietary ‘requirements’, I steer clear from trendy health regimes and stick to food that just tastes good. But I recently stumbled across a fad that was just too intriguing to pass by – aquafaba.

I know that it sounds a little like a low-impact form of exercise for senior citizens, but aquafaba is actually the salty, gelatinous brine that chickpeas are stored in. I have often pondered at how to use it; I attempt to be as zero waste as possible and chickpea brine was the one thing that I couldn’t find an appropriate use for. Cue vegan meringues…

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Aquafaba meringues are a great example of why you shouldn’t believe everything that the internet tells you; after scrolling through countless pictures of cute little tarts topped with crisp and egg-free meringue, I thought I was on to a fool proof new dessert. It appears I was wrong.

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First step – drain the liquid off of a can of chickpeas and eat the chickpeas for lunch. Next, whisk the brine until it forms firm peaks, like you would if you were making meringue in an ordinary universe. Surprisingly, it works – and as the liquid plumps up with air bubbles, the salty flavour seemingly evaporates.

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Whisk through ¾ cup of sugar and a pinch of baking soda until the sugar has dissolved and the meringue is nice an firm. Spoon dollops onto a tray of baking paper and bake for 30 minutes at 140°C. Or so they say…

I opened my oven, hoping to see a tray of crunchy white globes. Instead, I was greeted with this:

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A tray of sticky sugar syrup, amber in colour and bubbling at the surface. I don’t know if I hadn’t beaten the aquafaba long enough, or hadn’t added enough sugar. Maybe it can only be used like Italian meringue, or maybe the internet had lied to me. If anyone can help me with my vegan-induced dilemma, I am all ears!

when life gives you lemons

   So, this week I moved. I packed my bags and hopped on a train, how exciting! However, before this excitement could happen I had to leave my house, which involved finding a way of using all the ingredients I had that I couldn’t or didn’t want to take with me. The trouble with this was that I didn’t really have enough of anything to make anything, so I had to do some tweaking.

So this is my adaptation of Vadani Kaval Gheta’s vegan lemon almond cake. I love lemons. And a few years ago I made Nigella’s lemon polenta cake (very good, do try it!) and this cake is quite similar. Although unlike Vadani’s version of the cake, mine was not actually vegan… I had no soy milk, but I had normal milk and the only reason I had looked for a vegan recipe was because I had no eggs and I didn’t want to go and buy any. So I did what I could with what I had, when life gives you lemons, bake a cake!

For this cake you will need:SAM_1409

Between two and four lemons, depending on how lemony you like it
1 cup of milk, from a cow, a soy bean or anything really
1/3 cup of almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/4 cup of flour
a dash of salt
a dash of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of oil, from an olive, a sunflower etc.
a dash of vanilla

First things first, zest all the lemons that you choose to use, squeeze the juice out of them all and add half of it to the milk, set the other half aside. Leave the milk to curdle a little, which I know sounds gross but it helps to thicken the mixture later on.SAM_1411

Mix the almonds, the flour, the baking powder and the salt in a bowl and set aside.

Mix the oil, the sugar, vanilla and all of the lemon zest in another bowl, you can blend it if you want but I didn’t, I doubt it is an essential step. I also added a little bit of cinnamon.SAM_1416

Add a third of the milk slowly and mix it in thoroughly, add another third and another third like so.

Add the dry ingredients and mix together, again thoroughly. Then pour into a cake tin and pop in the oven (which you should have heated to 190°C before the first things first) for 20 minutes.

While that’s baking, mix the remaining lemon juice with  a little bit of sugar to make a nice glaze, you can heat it to thicken it up if you would like but what I did was wait until the cake was done, I took it out of the oven and poured the sugary juice straight over the cake and put it back into the oven for a couple more minutes at a low temperature. This way it seeps through the whole cake to keep it nice and moist.

This cake was a success in my opinion, although it didn’t make a lot and I ate it within the hour. It is best enjoyed hot I think! The sugary almond base to the cake is nicely contrasted to the tart flavour of the lemons which I adore!

A very easy cake, almost as easy to bake as it is to eat!

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