Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Vegan Strawberry Cinnamon Crumb Bars

Yesterday I was going to share progress in my garden, as well as a small harvest of fresh strawberries, but I was tired.  Even though I had not done much over the weekend, I was mentally tired and then coming back home from work, had me crashing to the sofa. 

All week I have been sharing food from overseas and other climes, but today its back to British - not necessarily these bars which are American, but I am nodding my head to one of the Best British ingredients - Yes, lets all scream Strawberries!
This was one beautiful strawberry bar.  The bottom soft spongy, the top crumbly and crunch and in between a layer of strawberries. Teasing me, first a little bit burst of fruit, then a little bit jammy and then a little bit chewy.  Nice.  Although D eats everything I make, he does not always appreciate the vegan cakes I make that often, but he loved this one and was happy that I was not going to take any slices into work to share.  Secretly I was pleased too.  
I've adapted  the recipe for Blueberry Spice Crumb Bars slightly from  Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Post Punk Kitchen's Duo.   I am not going to republish it here, if you don't have the cookbook - go on treat yourself, if not - you can find the recipe on-line.  I  replaced the spelt flour with plain flour, blueberries with strawberries and omitted the ginger and allspice.  

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Maqluba - Middle Eastern Upside Down Savoury Rice Cake

All week,  except for Friday much to do with the EU Referendum I have been trying to raise some awareness of Refugee Week through Cooking A Dish from Another Country .  Refugee Week  in the United Kingdom is an event that promotes positive encounters between asylum seekers and refugees and members of the receiving communities, as well as raising awareness. The theme for Refugee Week  2016 was Welcome.  
Today I will share another Middle Eastern dish called Maqluba.
Over the years, I've seen various versions of Maqlub.   Maqluba is a Palestinian dish popular throughout the Middle East.  Once the dish is cooked, the cooking pot is turned  upside down and removed to reveal  the edible crown beneath.  

I have no doubt that Maqluba takes centre stage on the table at Middle Eastern family feasts, especially now when many Muslims across the world are taking part in the holy time in the Islamic calendar of Ramadan and this may be part of the Iftar meal - breaking of the fast.  I do however wonder how the Syrian asylum seekers  in the Calais Jungle in France are coping at this trying and testing time.  There is an initiative called The Refugee Community Kitchen which has seen a group of compassionate people band together to help the refugees living in the camps of Europe.  The Refugee Community Kitchen have come together to create a kitchen to feed people to sustain them and their children.  I hope we can all play a small part here and donate a little.
Maqluba is often made with meat, but I have adapted a meat version from Libyan Food and Kitchen of Palestineinto a version, suitable not just for vegetarians but also vegans.  This one is made with aubergines and cauliflower.
I have to admit, I was expecting it to collapse on removing the pot, but it remained perfectly intact. I was really pleased to even slice it perfectly too.  Feel free to sprinkle with toasted pine-nuts, almonds or herbs.  
Other posts related to Refugee Week
Eritrean Zigni and Berbere
Middle Eastern Kibbeh
Somalian Fava Beans 
Syrian Cauliflower Zahra Mnazalet

Zimbabwean Butternut Squash


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Middle Eastern Sweet Potato Kibbeh

The theme for Refugee Week  for 2016 is Welcome.  Refugee Week is a collective acknowledgement across the world to raise awareness  of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers across the world.   As my blog is a vegetarian food blog my Simple Act was to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness that way among some of my readers.
Kibbeh is a popular dish from the Middle East, especially in Aleppo in Syria.  It is made from bulgar wheat, meat, onions, spices and then deep fried.   It often comes in torpedo shape croquettes which I have yet to master and many variations.  In Aleppo, Syria there are many varieties including those made with vegetables.  Some of you may remember me mentioning a Middle Eastern cookbook I found at my local library a little while back called Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa (2000) by Habeeb Salloum which shared a a number of Kibber recipes, including one made with Pumpkin.  
Kibbeh is the national dish of many countries in the Middle East where refugees have fled from such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria respectively.  In 2011, an estimated 9 million Syrians were forced to flee their homes because of the outbreak of the Civil War.  This is perhaps the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

The first time I heard of kibbeh was from a Scottish mature student at the University.   It was in her home on the Southside of Glasgow when she cooked for me that I was  introduced to kibbeh and tabbouleh, tabbouli.  She told me she was of Armenian diaspora. She said her family had come into the UK after the Second World War.  I was completely fascinated as I knew nothing about the Armenian people.  We do forget how many people around us have refugee heritage and ancestry, even the UKIP leader Nigel Farage's ancestors were refugees from Huguenot background fleeing to England from France to escape religious persecution (The Guardian, May 10 2013).  Some of us are able to assimilate and change our names because of our skin colour.  Some of us who have been in this country for decades, born and bred will always be seen as immigrants; 'the Other' because of our skin colour.  
Anyway, it was only after graduating from University that I  attempted to make Kibbeh  from scratch , I have to admit I was not happy with the final dish, it was gritty.  Hence, I am glad to be given the excuse through Refugee Week to make it again. It was much lovelier this time. Its very much like a falafel that you stuff it in a pitta bread and munch.  Enjoy!  I am sharing this recipe with Cook Once Eat Twice hosted by Searching for Spice; and Utterly Scrummy for the No Waste Food Challenge run by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Eritrea Recipes for Refugee Week

Refugee Week is often celebrated between 2- 26 June. It is a unique event as it brings people from all backgrounds together to highlight and celebrate the contributions that asylum seekers and refugees make to the U.K.   

The theme for Refugee Week for 2016 is Welcome.  Throughout this week, my Simple Act through my blog has been to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness of that particular country through its cuisine.
Today I will share some vegetarian and vegan Eritrea plates, but before I share the recipes, I'd like to begin by admitting that I had never heard of Eritrea until the refugee crisis.  Eritrea's neighbour Ethiopia had been imprinted on the memories of many thanks to Bob Geldof's  'Feed the world' campaign; but Eritrea a small country in the Horn of Africa was to come to our attention in the mid 1990s when many vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees from Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and  Eritrea were being dispersed across the U.K.  

The UNHCR estimates that 5,000 people leave Eritrea every month and account for the largest group of people applying for asylum in the UK.

An asylum seeker is " A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country, but whose application has not yet been concluded ."

Sadly I have met more Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees in my life than from any other background; and many have made the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.  

One of the reasons Eritreans are fleeing is forced military conscription, not just young men, but also the elderly and this often results in forced labour.  What should last 18 months is indefinite, lasting decades.  If you do not uptake, then the consequences are arbitrary detention and often torture for the individual and his family.  Many Eritreans have described Eritrea as a Totalitarian state comparing it to North Korea.  Amnesty International are calling on Eritrea to end the system of indefinite conscription into national service and to recognise it as a human rights violation.  
The Theatre for Justice in association with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School are 'committed to creating exceptional works on the theme of social justice'  Something that I am personally very passionate about.  Theatre for Justice's 'vision is to establish s network of theatrical pioneers who are passionate about giving a voice to those who are silenced'.    They will be showcasing a play called 'Still Here' based on the experiences of an Eritrean refugee. See the Trailer HERE.   Still Here will be premiering at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2016.

Now onto food - before starting this blog, I only had Ethiopian - Eritrean cuisine twice in my life.  The first time ever was in 2000, when I went to see my best friend Leah in the US.  She took me to an Ethiopian restaurant.  The second time was when I lived in Scotland and I cooked the entire Ethiopian-Eritrean Menu that was featured in Celia BrookWorld Vegetarian Classics cookbook (2005).  I was inspired to make everything from scratch, the Berbere Ethiopian Hot Spice Blend, the Nitteh Kibbeh - Spiced Clarified Butter and the Injera - Sourdough Flatbread,  following the whole fermenting process that took a days.  On the menu wasYe'atakilt W'et - Spicy Mixed Vegetable stew, Yedifin Miser Alicha We't - Mild Lentil Stew with Basil and Yeshiro We't - Stew of Spiced Powdered Chickpeas. 
In the same cookbook that I stumbled upon Eritrean Zigni Spaghetti - Noodles with Hot Sauce.  I wasn't quite sure about it assuming it was more of a recent fusion recipe, but a few years later when I was volunteering for Venture Scotland on a camping trip to Glen Etive, Scotland I asked some of the participants who happened to be from Ethiopia and Eritrea about Zigni Spaghetti , they confirmed to me that this pasta dish indeed actually existed. 

Spaghetti Zigni hails back to the 1930s when the Italians tried and failed to colonise Ethiopia, however they did  leave behind culinary influences.  Zigni Spaghetti was one of those influences. 
Zigni is essentially pasta coated in a deep rich tomato sauce enhanced with the highly spiced Berbere blend.   Berbere in Amharic means hot.  Berbere is a Hot Chilli Spice Blend that is essential to many Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes .  Its become one of my favourite spice blends. 
I followed a recipe for Spicy Lentil Misir W'et (Stew) that came from Ethiopian cook, Alemtshaye Yigezu.  For the recipe, follow this link. The only thing I did in addition was add both sweet potatoes and chickpeas to the dish, nothing more. 
 D'ba Zigni 
Ethiopian Supper of Tibs 'Soya Beef' with Berbere and Cherry Tomatoes and Caramelised White Cabbage, Carrot and Potatoes. adapted from Mazi Maz in The Guardian
Not authentic, but as I had some Injera - Sourdough flatbread left over from a meal, so made some Injera crackers.  I am still waiting for an Eritrean acquaintance to show me how to make Injera from scratch, watch this space!  Please check out this short film made by the BBC showing One Child's Journey from Eritrea to England. 


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Zimbabwean Squash Stuffed with Pulled Jackfruit 'Pork"

One of the aims of Refugee Week is to promote positive encounters between asylum seekers and refugees and members of the receiving communities, as well as raising awareness.   The theme for Refugee Week for 2016 is Welcome.  As my blog is a vegetarian food blog my Simple Act is to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness that way among some of my readers.
Today I will share a vegetarian Zimbabwean Butternut Squash recipe.  But before I share the recipe, I would like to shine a little light on Zimbabwe.  Since 2000, the scale of state violence, the political instability and economic deprivation  in Zimbabwe has seen the UK receive refugees from there. 

A refugee is someone whose asylum application has been successful and who is allowed to stay in another country having proved they would face persecution in their homeland.
Zimbabwe's human rights record under Robert Mugabe has been criticised by the international community, including the European Union, UN, US and other countries. Mugabe's authoritarian regime has used force and torture to oppress political opposition. But not all Zimbabweans in the UK are refugees.  The NHS has attracted many Zimbabwean doctors and nurses, so it is important to recognise and embrace the positive contributions made by Zimbabweans too. 
Zimbabwean cuisine is heavily meat based.  However there are some crucial vegetable based dishes, but they are staples and are often served as accompaniments such as covo, maize and sadza.   Sadza is made from maize.  It is described as a across between mashed potato and rice. Covo is a green vegetable similar to spring greens and is often served with sadza, meat and sauce.  

After speaking to two of my colleagues, both of Zimbabwean heritage, they both recommended a Pumpkin dish, a change from the traditional Peanut Stew known as Haku ne dovi, but like true African men neither cooks.  One relying on his mothers cooking ;and the other on his wife's, neither were not able to give me a recipe.  I did a little research and got their approval on the authenticity of a vegetarian dish made with Gem squash.  The only comment was that they had had this dish, but it wasn't filled up so much with additional ingredients.   I went ahead and adapted the recipe with the more readily available butternut squash in the UK.  The roasted butternut squash was really delicious.  It was cooked well that you could literally spoon it from the glossy skin like mash lifting upon your fork popping sweetcorn and melty cheesy goodness.  The original recipe states that you could make it with your choice of protein, instead of some cooked beans like kidney beans, I decided to add Jackfruit.  It was truly one of the best dishes I have made without the addition of spices, just some fresh herbs and seasoning.  This is made with cheese, but is very easy to veganize.  I am sharing this with Bake of the Week hosted by Casa Costello and Maison Cupcake; Cindy for Gluten Free Fridays 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Somalian Shahan Ful (Fava Beans in Xawash Tomato Sauce)

Refugee Week is a continuation of World Refugee Day and marks a collective acknowledgement across the world to raise awareness  of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers across the world.   

The theme for Refugee Week for 2016 is Welcome.  As my blog is a vegetarian food blog my Simple Act is to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness that way among some colleagues and some of my readers.
Today I will share a vegetarian Somalian dish, that also happens to be vegan.  It is Shahan Faul, Ful Sahan.  This is a bean dish that is also very common in Eritrea, Ethiopian and Sudan.  But before I share the recipe, you may be interested to know that Somali's have been in the U.K for over a century, arriving here as merchant seamen and settling in port cities like Bristol, Liverpool and Cardiff.  However, it was in the 1990s following famine and further conflict in the region in 2011 that many Somalis began to arrive in the UK after being granted with a refugee status.  


A refugee is "a person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of 'race', religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it" 

The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. 
So back to the recipe...when I originally asked a Somalian colleague in my workplace could he give or suggest to me a vegetarian recipe that I could cook at home and he immediately put his hand to his mouth and tried to contain the roar in his laughter - we are big meat eaters.  

This is true, Somali cuisine is meat orientated.  Vegetarianism is quite rare.  Vegetables appear to largely be side dishes, or a combination of meat and vegetables.  By the way, you may be interested to know that in Somalia pasta features quite a bit a part of their cuisine. This arrived with the Italians n the 1880s and sweet dishes came with the Arabs.
Anyway, after musing at my question he mentioned this fava bean dish and here it is a bronze gold bowl of loveliness.  Ful Sahan is often served with anjara, injera bread or Sabaayad which is made with a sourdough starter, but we had it with chewy brown rice.  The slow cooking of the sauce intensified the flavour and made the beans soft inside, but still retaining its wholesome shape.  I totally loved it and could have just easily eaten this from a bowl.  I am sharing this with My Legume Love Affair #96 hosted by Lisa's Kitchen;  and No Croutons Required.

Monday, 20 June 2016

World Refugee Day : Syrian Cauliflower Zahra Mnazalet

I do feel my calling is to work in a big community kitchen with people from diverse, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  I even dream one day if I win the lottery big time to start a community canteen where people from all backgrounds can come together, share and eat food and mostly talk with each other to break down preconceived ideas and challenge misinformation disseminated often by cheap paper tabloids.  I would not want it to be one of those places, where people come along, a bit like so-called 'Diversity days' 'eat the food from different countries, dance to the music, have their hands painted in henna', then go back to their homes continuing to still carry those prejudices.  I've seen that way to many times and always avoid it as tokenism.  Anyway, today (and the rest of this week) is not about me.  This week I give my blog space freely over to Refugee Week in the hope that it will raise some awareness of refugees and asylum seekers across the world for what its worth.

Today it is the 20th June and today is World Refugee Day.  World Refugee Day marks a collective acknowledgement across the world to raise awareness  of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers across the world.  
When I started this blog I lived in Scotland and through some of my work in the voluntary sector I was involved with the Scottish Refugee Council.  It was in the 1990s and many vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees from Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and  Eritrea were homed in the Red Road flats in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland.  Previous to that my only experience of refugees was through books and history lessons.  And the only real life encounter I had up until then with a refugee was when I was a child in Wales.  I learned of 'the boat people' - Vietnamese people who came to Wales in the  1970s.  If you are a regular reader, you will know that dotted throughout my blog are thoughts on how 'we are all foreigners somewhere'.  

In 2011, an estimated 9 million Syrians were forced to flee their homes because of the outbreak of the Civil War.  This is the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The rest ...we all know.  

The theme for Refugee Week for 2016  is Welcome. On a daily basis I engage and interact with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some are from an asylum seeker and refugee background, some are not - but the one thing we all have in common is that we are all human beings looking to better our lives.  But for the purpose of my blog my Simple Act is to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness that way among some colleagues and some of my readers.
In Syria Zahra means cauliflower, it is also the same word for flowers.  Kano - The Syrian Foodie writes, and the word Mnazalet is a generic word for vegetable dishes.  
I have adapted the meat version which is made with minced lamb with reconstituted soy mince, but you can omit it all together if you wish.  For those of you who like mild flavours, then this one is for you.  I liked it, for me the fresh coriander elevated the dish.  You will find the recipe below if you wish to recreate it at home. 

On another note about Syria, I went to an exhibition called from Syria With Love
This is a UK based initiative.  The exhibition shared artwork created by Syrian children living in refugee camps in Lebanon.  Here are some pictures I took on that day.

If you get the chance, visit Savouring Syria - A project that tells the stories of Syrians and Syria through food.  Also if you have time, please watch Queens Of Syria.  
In 2013, 50 Syrian women came together in Jordan to create and perform their own version of The Trojan War, a take on the Greek tragedy about the plight of women in the war.  It is Arabic with English subtitles and is directed by Yasmin Fedda. Here is a review by The Guardian.

Strawberries and Roses

To those of you who came by last week, I did say come back and I would show you some progress, except - its been very wet and I do not wish to go and take photographs in the rain, but here are some that D managed to take a couple of days back when it was overcast.
 I harvested the first fruit of the year from the garden, some homegrown strawberries, These were hidden amongst the invasive mint and weeds.  I know I will have to be quick pickign these as I will be fighting the birds and the slugs for them. 
Some stunning red roses that are filling the trellis that I shared last week in the patio area where the birds come to feed.
 Some white delicate rose petals flapping in the breeze like dove wings.
 I got tempted and picked one to accompany my White Coconut Bliss Balls aka Ladoos.
 The yellow roses are just about to bloom.  
And finally, the last of the bolted Rainbow Swiss chard.  I have made some furhter progress, but hope that I will be able to share it with you next week.  I am sharing this short post with Harvest Monday hosted by Dave over Our Happy Acres.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Graffiti Art Down Bristol Alleys

Forget about what you will find in the woods...
If you go down this little alley in the city centre of Bristol, England you will find some interesting wildlife albeit through graffiti art.  
We stumbled upon this alley on our way to Bristol Harbourside for Bristol Veg Fest a few weeks back. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

White Coconut Vegan Ladoos

South Asian people traditionally don't really do cakes, they celebrate those special occasions like parties, weddings, birth of a child (grandchild, great grandchild....) and significant events like Diwali, Eid and Vaisaki and so forth with a colourful boxes of Mithai - which loosely translates as Sweets.
Laddu or Ladoo are probably the most well known Indian Sweet, followed by Barfi and Jalebi.  

I often describe Laddu's as the original bliss ball!.  Laddu's are golden balls of crumbly deliciousness, 
If you have ever watched the outstanding movie Monsoon Wedding, you will have noted throughout the film various scenes leading to the wedding day (and the wedding day) where various characters are having their mouths stuffed with a whole laddu.  I could never eat a whole one in one go - honest.  Little mouse bites for me. Yes, I am a lady  - sometimes. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Sea Shepherd's Pie

 The weather has changed from sunshine to overcast dark skies, but the rain is welcome as the air is stuffy and humid, and the plants will appreciate it too.

Although I have lots of different vegetarian and vegan Shepherd's Pie on my blog, including a Welsh Shepherd's Piee, I do like trying other recipes.  Shepherd's Pie with mash potatoes is also one of D's favourite dishes, so he never minds when I make it or what the weather is like.  For me, Shepherds Pie is either a dish for the weekend, or for rainy days.  I am sure I am not alone in that. 
 This particular Shepherd's Pie comes from Sea Shepherd's Anti-Whaling Campaign cookbook 'Cookin Up a Storm' by Laura Dakin.  Sea Shepherd is not an animal rights organization, it is quite a unique environmental organisation.  For those of you who are not aware or familiar with the work of Sea Shepherd, well these brave and admirable individuals are literally shepherds of the sea, protecting and defending the 'graceful denizens of the sea: whales, seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins'.  Sea Shepherds role is to confront head on and challenge the illegal slaughter of endangered marine wildlife.  If you love dolphins and seals, then why not other marine life?!
I would just like to share an extract from the cookbook and I hope Lara Dakin and Sea Shepherd don't mind me doing this.  I think its quite powerful and it certainly made me think as a vegetarian.

'People are eating our oceans to death.  No fish is safe.  What most people don't realize, however, is that meat eating also greatly diminishes the oceans, because 40% of the fish taken from the sea is fed to pigs, chickens, cowls, domestic cats, and farm raised fish.  In fact, pigs are eating more fish than sharks, chickens are eating more fish than puffins, and cats are eating more fish than seals.  So really, when you eat bacon, you're eating the sea.  By serving only vegan food (on Sea Shepherd to the crew) we illustrate the relationship between what we eat and the health of our oceans.' Captain Paul Watson, one of the founders of Sea Shepherd.
Anyway, this Shepherd's Pie also happens to be Sea Shepherds signature dish.  I have a number of other recipes bookmarked to make including Fish Free Cakes, Chunky 'Beef' Barley and Ale Stew and  Asian Style Stuffed Dumplings, but this had to be the first - though  I must admit my Taste of the Sea Spaghetti was prompted by seeing a version in this cookbook. 

Although I did tinker with the recipe just a little - more leeks and reduced the lentils - the verdict is it was really, really scrummy.  It was dinner for 3 evenings served with the last of the homegrown Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  
You can find Sea Shepherd's original recipe here; or buy the cookbook and support the charity. For a review of the book, follow this link. 
To learn more about Sea Shepherd in the UK follow this link
To follow them on Twitter in the UK follow this link.
To see Laura Dakin and the other crew cooking and in action - click here.  

I am sharing this with Months of Edible Celebrations who hosts Cookbook Wednesday. and Casa Costello for Bake of the Week. 
Sea Shepherd at Cheltenham Vegan Festival
Sea Shepherd's Tote Bag at Bristol VegFest