Marinated Kale Fattoush

Fattoush is my preferred salad of choice when it comes to Lebanese or Arabic cuisine – I almost always order it the same way, no bread, dressing on the side, and easy on the lemon (you would think that asking for dressing on the side would omit the need to say “no lemon” but several experiences have taught me otherwise). Oddly enough, it’s one of those dishes I’ve never even thought to re-create at home – perhaps because it seems on the surface, simple and uninspired. It is the everyday Arab man (or woman)’s garden salad if you will. Greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and a tangy pomegranate dressing – big whoop, right?

Well maybe not – but I find  inspiration in the oddest of places. When it came time to re-imagine my version of fattoush I went for a nutritionally dense green for my base – kale. Wild radishes and plum cherry tomatoes, courtesy of the local farmer’s market were also a must.

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Avocado makes a secret cameo appearance too – alongside tangy pomegranate molasses and fragrant sumac for that traditional flair.

An additional note is that fattoush is typically made with far more lemon – but as you may have gathered I generally have a qualm with Lebanese cuisine’s exhaustive use of citrus, so my version is a little toned down. If your tastebuds are not similarly afflicted I would recommend you up the lemon juice by an additional tablespoon or so.

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Also if you’re seeking a gluten-free option – I highly recommend these chickpea flour crackers. They’re super easy to make and are delicious all on their own too.

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If you’re looking to make this salad as a standalone meal, go ahead and add a cup of chickpeas per serving for a protein boost. I plan on doing just that for tomorrow’s packed lunch at work.

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The best thing about kale salads is that you can make them in advance without having to worry about wilting, or keeping the dressing separate. In fact, I’ve found marinated kale actually tastes better once it’s been sitting around for a while – so it’s the perfect for barbeques, potlucks and the like.

Until next time dear readers!

Gluten-free Vegan Orange Cardamom Cookies

Picture a cookie.

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vegan cookie.

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A vegan, shortbread-esque cookie, delicately scented with orange and cardamom.

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These cookies were the result of a weekend experiment gone terribly right. I woke up last Friday at the crack of dawn thanks to an uncomfortable night’s sleep (due in large part to the DOMS I was experiencing after trying a new workout routine) and felt the urge to fill the house with the smell of something wonderful.

While I’m no stranger to decadent baked goods - it’s no secret that I far prefer a wholesome, naturally sweetened and delicately spiced baked treat when I choose to indulge. A quick survey of the ingredients in my kitchen alluded to just that.

My first round baking these, I was a tad to wary and took them out before they crisped up properly, which made for a slightly  denser cookie especially later on in the day – but when baked to perfection they are heavenly.

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The orange and cardamom marry together beautifully, and I’m honestly shocked at how well my date paste held up as a sweetener – though if you prefer a sweeter cookie you may choose to use maple syrup instead.

Mother and man-friend approved, by the way. The latter ate the bulk of my batch, and commented on how moreish they were.

They are the perfect cookie to have with a tea or coffee – or even just good old non-dairy milk. Light and airy, and not too sweet, they made for an ideal mid-morning snack.

As for why gluten-free, the answer is why not! I am not coeliac, nor do I have any serious gluten intolerances (and I never claim to) – however I enjoy experimenting with all styles of baking, and personally feel better when I limit the amount of wheat I consume. That’s not to say that a basket of freshly baked roti or a slice of vegan cake don’t make their way to my plate every once in a while. As the old adage goes, everything in moderation. But anyways, I digress.

These cookies – make them!

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Vegan Fattet Hummus

It is no secret to regular readers of this blog that chickpeas and I have a long-standing love affair. We were first formally introduced in 2009 and have been hot and heavy ever since. Whether it’s in a veggie packed hummus, a dense and flavourful falafel, or even in a quick curry – I am down for the count when chickpeas are involved. It is by far my favourite legume (cue the #shitveganssay hashtag).

All things considered, I really ought to have made this recipe a little bit sooner, considering the main constituent is none other than the mighty chickpea. Sometimes referred to as “Fattet Hummus bil Laban”, Fattet Hummus is perhaps one of the lesser known staples of Syrian and Lebanese cuisine. Typically eaten for breakfast, it is a blend of creamy yoghurt, tahini, chickpeas, bread, spices and fragrant toasted pine nuts.

After browsing a few recipes online, veganising it seemed like it would be a cinch. Soy yoghurt instead of dairy, and olive oil in place of butter (I also originally wanted to concoct a gluten-free version, but was unable to get my hands on any gluten-free pita so I settled on wholewheat Arabic bread instead).

What took a little longer however, was deciding just how to go about making the fatteh – in true Arab fashion, it seems to be one of those dishes that no one can decide on how to make best. I started to worry and ponder which recipe I should attempt to veganise – when I thought “Wait a second. This is my blog; I can make it however I want!”

Having said that, I can’t guarantee that my method or end result is as authentic as the real thing – but I can assure you that it is light, tasty and choc full of flavour – plus of course, dairy free and plant-based to boot.

 

This dish would be the perfect thing to throw together if you were going to dinner at someone’s house – it takes just under 10 minutes to make, but looks like you spent hours slaving over it.

Well, maybe not hours per se…

…but you have to admit it’s a pretty good looking dish.

Not to mention the contrast between the creamy yoghurt, the savoury hummus, crispy bread and sweet bullets of pomegranate that harmonise in a fantastic medley of flavours and textures.

For me, it made for a wonderfully light and tasty lunch alongside a simple kale salad today, but most of all I was thankful for the ease at which it came together. I’m feeling slightly under the weather and was in no state to be on my feet cooking for hours on end.

If you were once a fan of fattet hummus, or hell – if you like chickpeas anywhere near as much as I do, then I urge you to try this recipe, you won’t be disappointed.

Until next time, dear readers!

Vegan Spanakopita

Upon learning of my veganism, of the top questions I get asked by people is “don’t you miss anything?” I think given the fact that we live in a global culture that is emotionally attached to certain foods, this is the one thing that seems to baffle people. How did I “break up” with cheese, they wonder. How is it so that me and butter don’t even speak anymore? And (the pinnacle of unwarranted responses) “hey, don’t you ever just crave a steak?”

The honest answer is no, I don’t crave milk, cheese, eggs, dairy, red meat, poultry or fish. Even if I did enjoy the taste of meat (which I don’t), I can’t ever fathom willingly consuming animals or animal products ever again. That said, I’m only human, and I too have emotional attachments to certain dishes that I associate with a particular memory.

One such dish is Spanakoptia – a classic Greek pie of spinach and feta in crispy golden filo pastry. Admittedly, the rolled pastry I used to purchase from my university coffee shop was a highly bastardized version – but it was delicious all the same, and quite popular on campus too. I remember once standing in line after a long morning of lectures trying to thaw from the cold, only to notice there were but 2 rolls left and 6 people (including myself) queueing up to be served. I held my breath as each person ordered, silently hoping that the last roll would be mine, and sure enough it was. I can’t tell you how satisfying and warming biting into a crisp spanakopita alongside a cup of steaming herbal tea was on that icy day.

Due to the fact that I am near useless when it comes to working with filo pastry, the recipe I’ve devised here is closer to the original pie format, but I can guarantee you it is just as tasty, buttery and crisp as the one I remember.

 

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A cornucopia of flavours and textures.

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Crispy, creamy, spinach infused. This was just perfection.

Mental note to make this again soon – my stomach is rumbling at the thought!

 

Herb and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

I take pleasure in simple things.

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Solitary visits to the Saturday Farmers market, for example.

While I would hardly consider myself an introvert, there are some activities that are best performed solo, and for me – this is definitely one of them. I love trawling the crowded outdoor market, bustling from stand to stand, and allowing my senses to drink in the colours, sights and smells of the week’s fresh produce.

My thoughts entertain me, as I marvel at the Bahraini farmer who, having clearly thought I was a western expat based on my choice of outfit for the day, attempted to lure me to his stall by shouting in broken English “We have Kale!!”

For the record, his ploy worked, and despite the fact that it was grossly overpriced, I bought some – but only after conversing with him in Arabic to attempt to contest his blanket generalization that only westerners ate kale.

Burlap bag in tow, I moved on to the next stall where I laid eyes on something I had only ever seen before at a farmer’s market in Bodrum last summer; fresh zucchini blossoms.

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My excitement was tangible as I carefully rifled through the slightly beaten-up blossoms to pick out a few that were sturdy enough to stuff. Imagine my delight when I handed the bag to the attendant at the stall asking “how much?”, only to have him motion with his head and hands as if to say, “no need”. I thanked him graciously and proceeded to walk down the row of stalls with a smile on my face and my mind whirring with inspiration.

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This recipe is the second coming of my traditional “mahshi” recipe – I thought the addition of smashed chickpeas would add a nice depth of texture, and the fresh mint at the farmers market looked too good not to use.

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I was originally contemplating whipping up a cashew ricotta to use as a stuffing, but I was craving something more substantial in terms of texture and flavour. I must say the perfectly fluffed quinoa lends itself well to being parceled in a flavor and herb infused blossom.

Light, nutritionally dense and filling – ideal for a weekend lunch as a warm main dish or a cold side drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and a smattering of fresh herbs.

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I just love creating dishes made up exclusively of local fresh produce, and today’s cooking experiment was just that. I’m telling you, it’s the simple things.