Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What We Ate Wednesday-- Cheesy Chickpea and White Bean Soup with Bacon Mushrooms

Hello lovelies! As I said last week I was revisiting cookbooks and looking for recipes that we had not tried. I saw this one which was labelled as a kid friendly recipe and thought we would like it. I hadn't intended to try it quite so soon, but I had run out of a crucial ingredient for another meal and then forgot to go to the shops to replace it, so it was squeaky bum time when it came to cook dinner.

Did I panic? Only slightly. But then I remembered this soup recipe and thought "We have everything in the pantry!" so I decided to make it.

I had 100g button mushrooms languishing in the fridge, so I thought "Why not make bacon mushrooms to throw on top?" 

This is adapted from a recipe from Dreena Burton's cookbook Let Them Eat Vegan. I left out the celery and the bay leaf as tiggers don't like them.

I would *highly* recommend you check out her cookbooks. The earlier ones are more budget friendly, the later ones use more nuts and expensive maple syrup than we can afford, but they are still great cookbooks.

Cheesy Chickpea and White Bean Soup with Bacon Mushrooms
Preheat your oven to 220C/425F.
Start by marinating your mushrooms for the bacon mushrooms in  a small bowl.

100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 5 mushrooms) 
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Then work on getting your soup ingredients ready.

The soup:
1 onion, diced
half a carrot, diced (gives it a lovely orange colour)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 a tsp dried rosemary
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin white beans (I used haricot, but navy or cannellini beans would work), drained and rinsed
2.5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup unsweetened non dairy milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 TB lemon juice

In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the onion, carrot and garlic in a splash of oil or water.

When they have started to soften add your salt, basil, rosemary and stir to coat.

Add the beans and the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make your bacon mushrooms. Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper and using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms (SAVE THAT MARINADE!) and lay them in a flat layer and bake for 12-15 minutes. They will shrink and dry up and concentrate in flavour. When they come out of the oven, just set aside to cool.

When the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, add the reserved marinade, milk, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. She suggested super smooth for picky kids, we left ours a bit chunky. Then reheat on low until piping hot.

Serve the golden, cheesy soup with a spoonful of bacon mushrooms on the top.

This really ticks that umami box I talked about a few months ago. It was delicious and was made from things we *always* have on hand. It will definitely become part of the winter soup rotation.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Highwayman (Loreena McKennitt)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. I have been exploring some Southern Gothic ballads in the last few weeks, but now want to move onto more traditional ones. This one is actually a poem written by Alfred Noyes in 1906. 

According to Wikipedia:
The poem was written on the edge of a desolate stretch of land in West Surrey known as Bagshot Heath, where Noyes, then aged 24, had taken rooms in a cottage. In his autobiography, he recalled: "Bagshot Heath in those days was a wild bit of country, all heather and pinewoods. "The Highwayman" suggested itself to me one blustery night when the sound of the wind in the pines gave me the first line." The poem was completed in about two days.

It is a tale of a dashing 18th century highwayman and his sweetheart Bess. It is a great poem with beautiful imagery,  a fashionably turned out gentlemen thief, a beautiful, brave woman, heartless soldiers, jealousy, suicide and murder. It is a cracking good poem, and if you don't know it, you can read it {HERE}

Spiderman once write a quiz for a literary magazine where you had to match the onomatopoeia sound effect to the literary work.  This poem was featured for its use of TLOT TLOT! as the sound of horse's hooves. 
Image result for the highwayman charles keeping
illustration by Charles Keeping
As a child, I dreamed of being as brave as the Landlord's daughter Bess. Anytime I was ever in the presence of a four poster bed, I used to ask to be tied up with a broom handle which I pretended was a gun and mimed shooting myself in the breast as I bravely saved my sweetheart by warning him with my death. 

I was beaten up a lot as a child.
It also never occurred to me that perhaps I should not be dating a Highwayman (no matter how elegant his coat of claret velvet was) because he was a HIGHWAYMAN. I just wanted to be brave and save him. Not that she saved him as he gets shot down like a dog on the highway, despite the lace at his throat. 
Image result for the highwayman charles keeping
illustration by Charles Keeping

I was thrilled when I heard Loreena McKennitt had recorded a version. It is a long poem and so she had to make some cuts. They don't *really* effect the overall story all that much. Even with cuts it runs 9 minutes 32 seconds.

You know he is betrayed by someone as the redcoat soldiers appear at the Inn with information that he will return and tie up Bess with a musket beneath her breast as bait. She kills herself to warn him. He hears the shots and doesn't go to the Inn because he didn't who stood drenched in blood. But when he did find out it was her, he went mad with grief and got himself shot. 

In the poem you know who betrays him--it's Tim the osler who works at the Inn and is secretly in love with Bess as he listens dumb as a dog to the dashing Highwayman and his true love make plans in the dark of night. 

I have not put the lyrics below as someone has helpfully included them on the video. 

Stay tuned next week for a tale of a different Highwayman and thief.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--UB40 Chickpeas, and Kale over Pasta

Hello lovelies! When I get a new cookbook the first thing I do is read all the recipes and look for ones that seem like we would like them. I then put a question mark by every one I intend to try and then once I have tried it, I put either a tick or a cross (that's a check or an X to my American peeps) by the recipe, depending on what we thought of it.

I recently was rereading a cookbook I got a few years ago and noticed there were quite a few with question marks, so I am making an effort to try things we haven't eaten. This particular cookbook is called Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton.  I have many of Dreena's cookbooks and they are all a sure bet for good recipes.

I was thumbing through and came across a recipe for Tempeh Tickle. The marinade was said to "tickle your taste buds" which sounded good as I like marinades with a complex flavour profile. These days, we don't buy tempeh. We don't avoid soy like some of my friends (hi Ernie!) but we are on a stricter budget and tempeh just doesn't make the cut. A packet of tempeh costs around 3-4 quid. A tin of chickpeas is 33p.

I know which one I am choosing.

Spiderman says I am genetically incapable of following a recipe exactly as it is without a little tweak here and there. He's right. I duck and dive and substitute where necessary. I look in my fridge to see what needs to be used up and I look in my pantry to see what we have and I go from there. This is how I keep us eating delicious, healthy, nutritious meals for £30 a week.

We had chickpeas, we had kale and we had gluten free pasta. I could use the marinade and build a meal around that.

So I did.

You may notice that we eat A LOT of kale. Well, there's a reason. It is nutrient dense and inexpensive. I can get a bag that feeds us for 2 meals between 80p and £1.

On to the recipe. So how did I get from Tempeh Tickle to UB40? Simple. The recipe calls for red, red wine. Geddit? Now, some of my friends I know you don't drink. Don't freak out. You can use regular wine (the alcohol cooks off I swear) or you can buy alcohol free cooking wine. Either way, red wine gives it a really rich and complex flavour.

I decided to cook it like I cook my tangy roasted chickpeas and vegetables and then saute some kale and throw it over some pasta. I use 1.5 cups pasta for two people.

UB40 Chickpeas and Kale over Pasta
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
In your biggest roasting pan add the following:
1 tin of drained and rinsed chickpeas
1 onion, diced
half a bell pepper, diced
one small carrot (or half a large one) diced small

Then in another small bowl, mix up the marinade then pour over the chickpea and veg mixture and stir well (with your hands if you need to) to get it all coated.

2 TB red wine
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 TB oil
1 TB balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard (like Grey Poupon)
1 tsp oregano
1.5 tsp liquid sweetener (she used maple syrup, I used golden syrup)
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then give it a good stir and roast another 15 minutes. As the UB40 mixture is doing its thing in the oven, cook your pasta according to directions and get the kale (100g, 4-5 cups) washed, destemmed and torn into bite size pieces.

When the UB40 is nearly done, saute your kale in a large pot on medium high with a splash of water until the kale cooks down and turns bright green (about 5 minutes) then add a hefty splash tamari or soy sauce.

Mix in the pasta and the UB40 mix in with the kale and dig in.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Ode to Billie Joe (Bobbie Gentry)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. For the last few weeks I have been looking at versions of Southern Gothic folk songs. I could not resist adding Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry.

Now if you know this song, you might be asking yourself this question. "Spidergrrl, I though this was Murder ballad Monday not Suicide Ballad Monday. What's the deal?"

Well...this song always seemed to me to be about the death of innocence. We had it on vinyl when I was a child. She has giant spiders on her eyes huge false eyelashes which fascinated me as well. 

                           Image result for bobbie gentry album
It was very colloquial and she spoke like someone straight outta Mississippi. as someone who was straight outta Louisiana it was like a conversation at the dinner table when we visited my grandparents. I could just see my Grandpa Cecil Blair dismissing the suicide and my feelings with words like Well, Billie Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please. 

As I got older and began to read Southern Literature, I realised the song was like something out of  a Flannery O'Connor short story. 

Like the Vicki Lawrence version of The Night the Lights went Out in Georgia, it posed many questions for me that I spent hours pondering. I am not alone in this. Upon its release in 1967, the nation was gripped with questions such as:

Why did Billie Joe MacAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge?

What were she and Billie Joe throwing off the bridge?

Did her family ever realise that she and Billie Joe were sweethearts?

What caused him to be fine the previous day at the sawmill and then kill himself the next? 

Why did the family act like it was not a shocking tragedy? 

As Gentry told Fred Bronson, “The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important.
“Everybody has a different guess about what was thrown off the bridge—flowers, a ring, even a baby. Anyone who hears the song can think what they want, but the real message of the song, if there must be a message, revolves around the nonchalant way the family talks about the suicide. They sit there eating their peas and apple pie and talking, without even realizing that Billie Joe’s girlfriend is sitting at the table, a member of the family.”

That's what I liked about it. Unconscious cruelty. That is straight outta Flannery. 

As I said, I was not the only one who pondered these questions. In 1976, a film version was made starring heart throb Robbie Benson and Glynnis O'Connor. In the film young Billie Joe {SPOILER ALERT} has a homosexual encounter and then kills himself out of guilt and shame. 

I preferred it when you got to ask all the questions, not have them answered. But if you are curious, you can watch the entire film here: 

Back to the actual song. I recall clearly seeing it on a rerun of the Smother's Brothers. She was sitting on a stool in front of a weird tableau of shop mannequins sat around a dining table. It was creepy. 

You can watch the Smother's Brothers recording here. I have included the lyrics below.

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton, and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y'all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge

Today, Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
Well, Billie Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow
And mama said it was shame about Billie Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
I'll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don't seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And mama said to me, child, what's happened to your appetite?
I've been cookin' all morning, and you haven't touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billie Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge

A year has come and gone since we heard the news 'bout Billie Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn't seem to want to do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Tat's all for this week. Stay tuned next week to meet a dashing Highwayman and his brave lover Bess for another murder/suicide. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Black Eyed Peas with Curried Yogurt

Hello lovelies! This is one of the first vegan meals I learned to cook. The recipe came from a vegetarian cookbook I bought in a charity shop in 2004, soon after we emigrated to the UK. The rest of the cookbook was just so-so, but this recipe has stood the test of time. I photocopied it from the cookbook and returned it to the charity shop from whence it came. I have no idea what the cookbook was or who wrote it--it might have been Linda McCartney. Not sure. But whoever wrote it, I salute you!

This is a great recipe for using up the dreaded green pepper that comes from your three pack of peppers. The earthy flavour of Black Eyes Peas (or Black Eyed Beans as they are known in the UK, but they will always be peas to me. Shut up...just shut up, shut up...) seem to really go well with the green pepper so we eat them together often. In fact, I recently bought a kilogram bag of dried black eyed peas that were on sale and cooked them all up, so you will likely see many black eye pea recipes over the next few weeks as I have a freezer full of the spotted buggers to use up.

This recipe is also great for using up plain soy yogurt. The one I buy is 500g and I might use it in a cake as a fat replacer, then use a dollop on top of something spicy, but what to do with the rest of it? this recipe is the answer.

Black Eyed Peas with Curried Yogurt
 1 tin black eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups if you cook them yourself)
1 white onion, cut into rainbows (thin strips)
1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
juice of half a lemon (2 TB)
1/3 cup unsalted cashew nuts
salt and pepper to taste (but lots of pepper really makes this good)

The sauce:
1 cup (up to 1 and 1/4 cups) plain unsweetened soy yogurt
2 tsp curry powder (I never have curry powder so I use 1.5 tsp garam masala and 1/2 tsp turmeric)
2 TB lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic
liquid sweetener to taste

1. If you are making rice, start it first. We use an easy cook brown rice that takes 25 minutes, so i get this going and then start the rest.
2. Start by cooking your onion in a bit of oil or a splash of water until softened. Add your black eyed peas and green pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is nearly done.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing everything together in a container. Taste it. if it seems bitter, then add a squidge of liquid sweetener, stir and taste again until the balance of tart, savoury and sweet is achieved. The original recipe called for 2 TB fresh pineapple juice, but I'm like Who has that just laying around their kitchen??? So I use lemon juice and bit of sweetener.
4. When the rice is done, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and cashew nuts to the black eyed pea mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Drizzle the curried yogurt artistically over your food and take a photo, then ladle more on so that it covers your food.

This is quick and tasty as well as thrifty as it uses up stuff in your fridge like the dreaded green pepper.

Go and make it today!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia (Reba McEntire)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last week we looked at Vicky Lawrence's version of The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia and this week we are looking at Reba McEntire's 1991 version from her album For My Broken Heart.
                                 Image result for for my broken heart reba
I wrote last week about my feelings about the original recording of this song. What made it work for me as a child (and as an adult revisiting it) is the air of mystery.

What happened to the brother?  Was he lynched? Was it a show trial?

Why couldn't the sister get there in time? They hung my brother before I could say.....Where was she? Why didn't she come forward sooner? What prevented her? (This is why I always pictured it as rough justice. That they hanged him on the spot. Otherwise, why could she not come forward?)

Where did she hide the body? But that's one body that'll never be found....

Was she a psychopath? I mean, she murdered her brother's slutty wife and hid the body and then murdered Andy for dissing her brother ('cause to tell you the truth, I been with her myself)  and telling his best friend his wife was a slapper. Was she crazy? Or was this in itself rough justice. 'We take care of our own' sort of thinking.

I don't know, but I pondered these things over and over as a child. I also sat in front of the mirror and lip-synced the song trying to capture that crazed southern hard-ass murderer look on the last line.

That probably says a lot about me as a child.

Why this song was so meaningful to me was the sense of mystery. I didn't want to KNOW the answers. I wanted to IMAGINE all the possibilities.

This is where, to me, the Reba McEntire version fails. She wants to fill in the missing bits. The video spells out everything in painstaking detail.

And just like an episode of Poirot, it reiterates the findings over and over just in case it was not clear the first time or you are not clever enough to understand.  Like this:

Poirot: She stabbed her huzband when zey were all watching ze eclipse. Clever, non?
Inspector Japp: So you're saying that Lady Wishforit waited until the eclipse and then stabbed her husband?
Poirot: Oui, Monsier. And zat iz how Lady Wishforit was  able to murder her huzband when no one was watching.
Inspector Japp: Because we were all watching the eclipse. Astounding!

I personally feel like it makes the song weaker rather than stronger, but I know I am in the minority on this. I also prefer the tough- as- nails- cold- murderer feeling that gave me chills rather than this poor pitiful Pearl in bad age makeup that Reba does.

That probably says a lot about me now.

But why don't you decide? Watch the video and see what you think. I have included the lyrics below for reference.

He was on his way home from Candletop
Been two weeks gone and he thought he'd stop
At Web's and have him a drink for he went home to her

Andy Wo-Lo said hello
He said "Hi what's new"
And Wo said "Sit down I got some bad news that's gonna hurt"

Said I'm your best friend and you know that's right
But your young bride ain't home tonight
Since you been gone she's been seeing that Amos boy Seth

Now he got mad and he saw red
Andy said boy don't you lose your head
'Cause to tell you the truth I've been with her myself

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia
That's the night that they hung an innocent man
Well don't trust your soul to no back woods Southern lawyer
'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

Andy got scared and left the bar
Walking on home cause he didn't live far you see

Andy didn't have many friends and he just lost him one
Brother thought his wife must've left town
So he went home and finally found the only thing
Daddy had left him and that was a gun

He went off to Andy's house
Slipping through the back woods quiet as a mouse
Came upon some tracks too small for Andy to make

He looked through the screen at the back porch door
And he saw Andy lying on the floor
In a puddle of blood and he started to shake

The Georgia patrol was making their rounds
So he fired a shot just to flag em down
A big bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said
"Why'd you do it?"

The judge said guilty on a make-believe trial
Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile
Said supper's waiting at home and I gotta get to it

That's the night that the lights went out in Georgia
That's the night that they hung an innocent man
Well don't trust your soul to no back woods Southern lawyer
'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands

Well, they hung my brother before I could say
The tracks he saw while on his way
To Andy's house and back that night were mine

And his cheatin' wife had never left town
That's one body that'll never be found
You see little sister don't miss when she aims her gun

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a bit more Southern Gothic with Ode to Billy Joe. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Cookie Dough Bites

Hello lovelies! Recently, we were invited out to dinner with friends. Our lovely friend and landlord (those two words don't usually go together, but in this case they do) owns a Chinese restaurant in town and regularly invites his friends out for a free meal. We always have an interesting discussion which becomes more raucous as the evening progresses. We talk, laugh, debate, and get silly with people who have interesting and varied views of the world. We are the only vegans in the group, but we are well respected and cared for. Sai Wu makes delicious garlic mushrooms and a variety of vegetable dishes plus firecracker rice (minus the egg) which mean we have plenty of food.

Obviously, since this meal is free I want to bring something along for dessert as a thank you. But also as vegan advocacy. I mean, when you eat delicious food that is vegan it plants the seeds that compassion tastes good.

I often bake brownies because who doesn't like brownies, right? But this time, I was short on time and ingredients so i made these bite size cookie dough bites. They come together quickly, don't need much of any one ingredient and are always a hit.

I adapted the recipe from one of my favourite blogs Oh She Glows. You can read the original recipe {HERE} I mainly just adapted to make it gluten free and used Golden Syrup instead of Maple Syrup to make it cheaper. Plus, Golden Syrup has a real buttery butterscotch flavour, despite there being no butter in it. Feel free to use Maple Syrup if you can afford it.

Cookie Dough Bites

1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1/4 cup (GF) rolled oats
1/4 cup (GF) flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 to 1.5 TB sugar
1/2 tsp custard powder (the recipe called for vanilla essence/extract, but i have none so used custard powder as it is vanilla flavoured)
2 TB liquid sweetener like golden syrup, maple syrup, agave
Possibly a splash of non-dairy milk if it seems too dry
16 chocolate chunks chopped from a 100g bar

1. In a food processor combine the cashews and oats and process until they form a fine crumble.
2. Add the salt, sugar, custard powder and flour and whizz until combined.
3. Add the liquid sweetener and process until sticky and rolled into a ball. If it seems too dry or won't roll into a ball then add a half a teaspoon more liquid sweetener and a splash of non dairy milk and re-blend.
4. Roll into 16 little balls and push a chunk of chocolate into the centre of each cookie dough ball.

That's it. They are quick and delicious. Make sure you store in the fridge as that will help them to firm up.