Whilst I would never give up any foodstuff entirely, it's hard not to be affected by the plight of the planet.. so both at home and work I have naturally gravitated to more plant-based cooking over time.. and not to mention the major eco-warrior girlfriend to keep happy at home.
Luckily, January's vegan cookery journey has been unexpectedly enjoyable... so why stop there? In particular I've discovered a new baking angle to explore using aquafaba (the cooking liquid from chickpeas) which has resulted in some real deliciousness and much excitement in the kitchen and for our customers.
Aquafaba means A LOT of chickpeas knocking around and as much as I love hummus, even on a vegan diet there's a limit! So it seemed all too appropriate to share our favourite recipe of the many chickpeas we have cooked. It's amazing what flavour a few spices and some patience can deliver from a few humble ingredients. Inspired by the North African stew Harira, it features local seasonal veg and aromatic spices.
I'm calling it: "Harir-ish". Guaranteed to warm to you up and empty your veg drawer!
There are only 2 rules here - toast your spices and cook your onions properly. If I learnt anything from my Zanzibari grandmother, it's those 2 tricks for a great curry. Applying the same wisdom here will not disappoint. The secret to a good 'curry onion' is to fry, not sweat them, with sufficient heat to brown them, but not so much that they burn. Fry them on a medium-high heat, stirring a lot (particularly once they start to brown and release the oil), making sure they get evenly browned and they will smell epically good. Your run of the mill white onions will turn into a rich dark brown (NOT black) base for a delicious stew!
It's also really important to add your ground, toasted spices and cook them and the onions down a bit more - you will be able to smell all the flavour you are locking in. Now you've got a deeply flavoured base that will turn into a totally banging one pot wonder! And as with pretty much everything slow cooked - this is miles better if you eat it the next day.. so double up and set yourself up for a week of delicious, nutritious vegan eating.
Recipe (Serves 4-6)
2 shallots or small white onions
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
A few shards of cassia bark
1-2 black cardamom pods (optional)
2 large carrots
2 large potatoes
2 large parsnips
1 bay leaf
1 small seasonal green cabbage, shredded
3-4 plum tomatoes (deskinned, deseeded and chopped) Since tomatoes are currently not in season I actually used some base tomato sauce from our freezer stash! Essentially just passata and chopped tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper cooked reduced down until thickened
500ml vegetable stock (homemade preferable!)
150g cooked quinoa
250g cooked chickpeas (or 1 drained can - keep the liquid for baking fun)
Cold-pressed rapeseed oil
Salt & pepper
Lemon juice (to taste)
A small handful of fresh coriander
1. Toast all the spices in a dry pan until you can smell the oils and favour being released. Let them cool and grind them to a fine powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Set aside.
2. Don't peel the carrots, potatoes or parsnips. Just give them a good scrub and chop them into nice chunky mouthful sized pieces and keep them aside for later. The chunkier you cut the veg, the longer and slower you can cook your stew and all the better for your tastebuds in the end!
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy based saucepan on med-high - you want the onions to really sizzle when they go in. Peel and dice the onions - around half a centitmetre is fine. If they're too finely chopped they'll burn!
3. Add the onions and mix them thoroughly in the oil to coat them and reduce stickiness. Fry them until they start to go brown - the more brown they get, the more attention and stirring they will need to make sure they don't catch on the bottom of the pan and burn (if they burn, it's game over. Start again lest your curry be bitter as hell). Don't add anymore oil if the pan starts to dry out - the onions will release all the oil they have absorbed as they cook more... if you're worried about the onions sticking and burning, add some water to help release and cool them a bit so you can continue cooking until the oil separates.
4. Once the onions are a really deep brown colour and have started to release their oil, add the ground spices and stir diligently for minute or so - until it smells amazing.
5. Lightly bash the black cardamom pods, and throw in the pan along with the bay leaf and chopped root veg. Stir thoroughly making sure you scrape all the spice / onion mix from the bottom of the pan and coat the veg in it.
6. Add the tomatoes, stock, a good pinch of salt and a generous crack of black pepper. Bring up to a simmer. Half cover the pot and leave to bubble away on a low heat (just simmering) until the veg are cooked through and the liquid has started to reduce and thicken (at least 30 mins but will depend on how chunky your veg are).
7. Add the cabbage, chickpeas and quinoa and cook for a further 10 mins or so until you have a nice, rich thick broth and all the veg is tender but still holding its shape and colour. Chuck in some roughly chopped coriander and season taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
8. Serve piping hot with your choice of flatbread, or check out our vegan naan recipe.