Tagged: vegetarian

Date Syrup is nice on ANYTHING


Have you ever bought any date syrup? My goodness it’s nice.

You can get it from health food shops, like Infinity Foods in Brighton, or Harvest in Bath. I do like those sorts of places and while an avid, perhaps even an evangelical meat eater, there’s something about the smell of a health food shop that really comforts. It makes you feel good, and sensible and… Actually no. In the first instance I feel good but then that feeling of goodness mutates pretty quickly into a desire to be mischievous. Because while I love the odours and the interesting products, at the risk of tarring everyone with the same brush I don’t half feel like the people who work in such establishments could do with, erm, lightening up a bit. The same goes for the clientele. You know what, once I was reprimanded by a fellow customer for using the vegan tongs to pick up a pizza which had cheese on it. “Oh Eff Off love” I imagined saying, as I apologised. There seems to be an overwhelming sense of worthiness and piousness that hangs in the air. A mouse-like irritating softness to the majority of the shoppers and an over-considered and unrealistic sincerity to the staff.  In fact staff is the wrong word since they’re more often than not run as  a cooperative and staff would imply a boss/non-boss hierarchy. And there’ll be none of that I imagine. At least not officially, but I bet there’s a load of older lags who look down on the younger members with an inflated feeling of superior excellence.

Is that unfair? Probably. But you know what I mean don’t you.

Mind you, they certainly are a good place to visit to find some interesting products and ingredients that you won’t get in your average supermarket and one of those is Date Syrup. We buy it a lot. It’s cheaper than maple syrup and it’s a product of the UK which feels better if we’re thinking about air miles. It’s fantastic in savoury things as well as sweet ones, or if you want to blur the line between a desert and a savoury snack then try this.

Cut some cubes of feta and wrap them in a square of buttered filo pastry. Press the outside of the pastry into a mixture of black and white sesame seeds, bake for about 15-18 minutes in a medium to hot oven, trickle with date syrup, a little olive oil and some salt crystals and enjoy. Oh my gosh they’re good.


Falafels – Baked or Fried?



I live just outside Bath and am regularly in neighbouring Bristol for various jobs, and whilst there, I make a point of trying to strategically work it into my day, one way or another, to get to the falafel stall in St Nick’s market for one hell of an amazing lunch. I love these so much that I will drive many miles out of my way, risk parking fines while waiting in the queue and then suffer the ensuing panic of being late for an appointment…I never am but the joy that these little crunchy morsels, together with all their ancillaries bring is somehow worth the stress of a very badly planed falafel drive-through. If you’re ever in Bristol and in need of something to renew your faith in takeaway food, this is it. Bath, which supposedly has a great reputation for food doesn’t offer anything even remotely as good as this as a takeaway – an overpriced sandwich from one of the big chains is about the best you can get, as the high, prohibitive rents have excluded many promising and exciting start-ups. Forgive me if I’m wrong, people of Bath…..please fill me in as I do struggle for a good takeaway lunch there.

Stupidly enough, I never really thought about making my own until recently – I don’t know why.

Falafels are very easy to make and eating them fresh will beat the socks off your supermarket type.
A whole other world, and if you’ve only ever tried those pre packed ones (especially if you liked them and are easily pleased) you’re in for a genuine treat.

There are probably as many ways to make these as skinning the proverbial cat, and I’m still very much experimenting with the various options such as using tinned chick-peas/fava beans as opposed to using dried, whether to bake or fry them, and also the possibility of using alternative beans/peas. As a first dip into the falafel pond, and for convenience, I used tinned chick peas, and tinned borlotti beans as an alternative to the fava beans (broad beans). I also decided to bake them as I didn’t have copious amounts of oil for the whole deep-fat malarkey. I think they worked really well and were as tasty as I’ve had anywhere. Only slightly lacking in crunch from not being deep-fried.  I will be employing the deep fat fryer next time and shall keep you posted.

INGREDIENTS (makes around 24)

1 tin chick peas – drained
1 tin borlotti beans – drained
handful of fresh coriander and parsley or mint
5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
2 tsp toasted coriander seeds
2 tsp sumac
2 tsp lebanese spice mix
juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
sesame seeds for coating
olive oil for a drizzle in the roasting pan


  1. empty the drained beans/half chick peas (retaining the other half for later on) into a blender
  2. add spices, fresh herbs, garlic and tahini
  3. add salt to taste
  4. add bicarb
  5. crush the remaining chickpeas with a fork to a course texture and add to mix but don’t blend further – this adds a bit of texture back into the mix.
  6. cool mixture in fridge for at least 30min as cooling helps with the shaping.
  7. preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
  8. shape the falafels either to small fat disks or as I did to small teaspoon sized quenelles.
  9. coat with sesame seeds
  10. place in baking tray and drizzle with EV olive oil and place in oven for 15 minutes.
  11. take them out, turn them over and return to oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve these with a crunchy salad of red cabbage coleslaw, julienne carrot salad, tahini dressing and some fresh pittas. These are all really easy additions.

Besides the EV olive oil and cider vinegar dressing, both salads both got some added extras;

Cabbage salad – pomegranate molasses, fresh parsley, fresh chilli.
Carrot salad – roasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds. A drizzle of honey.

Tahini Dressing.

In a bowl, add 2 tbsp tahini and mix with 1/2 cup water and juice of half a lemon. Add salt, sumac and pepper to taste. (Matthew)


Creamy Lentil Soup for Cold Days


Here’s a quick one for a really simple and ultra-cheap soup that we’ve had loads recently. Very hearty and warming. Great in a wide necked flask when you’ve got a long drive in the winter (as I often have!).

Creamy Lentil Soup
1 onion (sliced/chopped)
2 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 thumb of ginger (sliced/matchsticked)
1 stick celery (chopped)
1/2 lemon
3 carrots (peeled and chopped coarsely)
2 heaped teaspoons cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
small pinch crushed chilli flakes
1 teaspoon mild curry powder (Bolsts, of course – see here)
6 handfuls red lentils
salt and lots of black pepper

Fry the onion in oil for a while until soft, then add the garlic, ginger, celery and carrot. Add the halved lemon in it’s entirety (having popped out any loose pips). Toast the seeds and grind before adding to the pan with the lentils, curry powder and the chilli. Stir around for a further two or three minutes before pouring in water from the kettle. Be quite generous with the water as much of it will be absorbed as the lentils swell. Bring to the boil, reduce to a really low simmer and cook with the lid on for about 45-50 minutes. Check the seasoning, and partially blend (or don’t) with a hand-blender, remembering to remove the lemon first (having given it a hard sqash to extract it’s juice). You could drizzle it with olive oil and a bit more lemon and some fresh coriander too if you wanted it to look fancy. Have it with bread. Or don’t.