Beet and chard brunch hash

Beet and chard brunch hash 

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Well, I made a hash out of this one. I know potato hash is meant to be a bit more- well- separate- but I made this before drinking a first coffee and it took me about twice as long to work out where I last put the matches to light the candles let alone consider that hash potatoes don't need to be cooked to mash-point. But once I realised my mistake, I also remembered what a mess most breakfasts look like really- scrambled eggs- beans everywhere- so I think maybe it's a thing to embrace pre-coffee. This hash is therefore what I'm going to call a hybrid between a regular potato hash and bubble and squeak, both splendid brunches in themselves, and with the beetroot, you just get this brilliant earthy flavour that is so moreish and perfect for digging in to after just waking up. This is the breakfast to cook in your PJs.

I got the inspiration for this recipe funnily enough from an article called 'The 10 best egg recipes' from the Guardian. It's by Allegra McEvedy, who is one of my favourite go-to chefs. She just knows how to get the best out of vegetables and fresh produce like no-one else I've come across.

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Obviously there's not much from her recipe that features in this one apart from the beetroot,  but it was a great starting point for this brunch. Instead of salt beef and egg, I chose rainbow chard and carrot to add some other flavours to this hash. Then, maybe it's my Polish roots as ever coming through, but I just cannot think of two ingredients like beetroot and mustard without adding gherkins, or ogorki as we call them at home. The tang of the orgorki and mustard just tastes brilliant against the blunt earthiness of the beetroot, and it picks out the carrot and onion too. If the thought of a pile of pickled cucumbers is a bit too much for you at breakfast then to be quite frank you're not doing it right, but yeah leave them out if you insist. 

 

Makes enough for 2 hungry people

Ingredients

4-5 medium sized raw beetroots, peeled and cut in to cubes

Salt 

500g potatoes, peeled and cut in to cubes

1 large carrot, peeled and cut down small

Olive oil

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 onion, cut down small

100g rainbow chard, cut into chiffonade strips and discarding the bottom inch of the stalk as this tastes really bitter

 

To garnish

Gherkins, sliced in to matchstick strips

1 tsp English mustard per person

 

Add slices of ciabatta or whatever bread you have in and toast on a griddle pan with olive oil.

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If you're using raw beetroot, start by putting the beetroot cubes on to boil with some salt. Next put the potatoes and carrots on to par-boil. If you're using cooked beetroot, chop as directed but save until just adding them to the frying pan later in the recipe.

While everything is cooking away, gently heat some olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, add in salt and pepper and chili powder, and then the chopped onion. Saute the onion on a really low heat for about 5 minutes, making sure it doesn't catch on the heat or turn a darker shade than golden brown. This will form the base flavour of the hash so it's important to give it time to soften and sweeten. 

After about 15 minutes, the potatoes and carrots should be virtually cooked through, so drain and add to the onions with a good glug of olive oil and some more seasoning if you think it needs it. Once the potatoes and carrots have mixed in with the onion, add the chard and mix together, and finally drain and add the beetroot. Try not to stir the beetroot around too much as it will make everything turn pink, and instead just let it fry in the pan and heat through. 

Plate up with toasted bread, and finish with the gherkins and a good dollop of English mustard. 

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A guide to going vegan in January

A guide to going vegan in January

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I used to believe January was a bad month to start anything other than a West Wing box set. But having turned vegan myself in January 2012, it seems it's POSSIBLE, even if it's not the easiest time of year to think about anything but MORE WHISKEY SOURS. 

So here are some tips and links to recipes for everyone trying out being vegan for January with Veganuary tomorrow.  It's something I get asked a lot about but is pretty difficult to set out, but I'm gonna give it my best shot! Woman cannot live on vegan chocolate coins alone, so here you have it...

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Practical things to get sorted in your first week:

- You will be spending zero money on meat or dairy, which will mean your shopping will generally be cheaper, but it might surprise you how much you need to spend on vegetables and fruit to fill your plate. So I would find a great greengrocer or vegetable box scheme to sign up to. It sounds simple but if you focus on the seasonal produce, it will generally be cheaper as there is a surplus amount, and taste the best. Remember you can make soups, curries and stews and freeze them all in portion-size sandwich bags, so if it's just you going vegan it can still be worth buying in bulk if you've got time to cook up a large amount of food to store away. I've written about my infatuation with London veg box scheme Growing Communities before, but if you're outside of London, you might have better access to local farmers' markets, so have a think about what suits you best. 

- If you're used to eating out for breakfast or lunch then you're gonna have to do some research. I keep muesli and porridge in my desk at work so I can always have breakfast, and this is a great way to eat the nuts and seeds that will provide you with some of the protein you need. Things like Sainsbury's Golden Syrup porridge are vegan, as are a lot of mueslis and plain cereals like Rice Crispies. It sounds obvious but makes it much easier than trying to work out what's vegan in Starbucks, because there isn't much. 

- ALTHOUGH: Out of all of the take-out chain places, Pret is the best for vegan food. They have a few vegan sandwiches and salads, and usually a vegan soup. For supermarkets, Sainsbury's has the clearest labelling, so it's much easier to work out if a crumpet/crisps/bread roll is vegan, but I've also heard Tesco have a good Free-From range, and a lot of my vegan friends get their vegan cheese from there.

- For meat replacements: Quorn isn't vegan. You'd think it would make sense, but no, it's got egg in it. However, Linda McCartney sausages are vegan, and so are some of their pies, which are great to have in the freezer for an easy dinner. Morrisons' soy mince is vegan, so can be used for spaghetti bolognese, lasagne etc. 

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Recipes you might wanna eat in January that are super easy to do vegan:

Breakfast:

-Fry ups are the ultimate in veganising action. Most bread is vegan (steer away from the posh stuff which might have egg or butter added), beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, a lot of supermarket hash browns, potato smilies, potato croquettes, wilted spinach, brown sauce, ketchup... your hangovers wont suffer from being vegan, that is for sure.

If you're stuck for ideas try:

Refried chipotle beans and herby spinach mushrooms

Bubble, squeak and spice

Jus-rol croissants and pain au chocolats

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For lunch:

-Leftovers like the homemade pizza above are really easy to take to work the next day, or try an extra portion of homemade curry or soups- if you want to buy them from a supermarket, ones like tomato and basil and clear vegetable soups are usually vegan.

- You can also just buy up a load of salad components like couscous, lettuce, hummus, olives, red peppers, olive oil and cucumber and make a salad over five days which keeps it pretty cheap. Most supermarkets also sell stir fry vegetables which you can microwave with a little water and add some pre-cooked tofu for protein. 

For more ideas try:

Giant couscous, spinach pesto, grilled tomatoes and puy lentils

Super-warming sweet potato, red lentil and chickpea

Tahini chopped salad with quinoa and beluga lentils 

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I don't get to take very many photos of dinners in winter as I hate using flash photography on food, but for some ideas, roast dinner-based meals are easy to veganise- roast potatoes are great with olive oil and mash potatoes work well with olive oil and a little vegetable stock to add flavour. You could make your own sausages like I have in the photo above, or use Jus-roll pastry to make pies and flans, which is all vegan apart from the butter shortcrust type. Atora vegetable suet is also vegan, and perfect on top of stews once made in to dumplings, or you can try a mashed potato topping with shepherds pie made with vegan soy mince. Obviously there's also a lot of dishes from Indian and Thai cuisine that are already vegan, and sauces like sweet and sour and and Thai peanut-based sauces are usually vegan.

Super-warming pumpkin chili with polenta topping

Chana Masala

Ratatouille and doorstep bread

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Final bit of advice: Haters are gonna hate! As long as you're not driving everyone nuts preaching about how great veganism is, it's unlikely you're going to offend anyone by trying it out for a few weeks. I was really worried about what my friends and family would do and how they would deal with it, but two years later and now my Mum knows more about vegan baking than me, can whip up a vegan meal for eight people in a flash and still manages to make sure it tastes amazing. My best mates all have their fav things they like to cook when I come over (cheers everyone!) and my boyfriend turns out to be the best vegan stir-fry maker I've ever met.

I could go on and on, but if you want any more practical advice, head over to the Vegan IRL section of this website, and you can also see all the Guac recipes to read through over at the Guac and Roll Index

Have fun and I'd love to hear how you get on! Tweet me @guacandrolluk and follow me @avainlondon on Instagram for more vegan updates throughout VEGANUARY! 

Rainbow rösti

Rainbow rösti 

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These rösti came about in the same way most of my brunch and breakfast recipes come to life: what can I make without having to step outside my front door. Maybe that's how the Full English Breakfast came to be. In any case, these Swiss potato cakes are fuss-free, super easy for a morning recipe and any leftovers work really well for lunch or even dinner as an alternative to a vegetable burger. But breakfast is where they work best. 

We didn't have any spinach- the traditional accompaniment- so I added cavolo nero on the side with these. They're pretty stodgy so are a perfect match for an endless supply of tea and last night's debriefs, the two main requirements for any weekend breakfast.

n.b. As you'll see in the photos I chose to keep the purple and orange carrots separate from the potatoes until the last minute so the entire mixture didn't take on a purple colour. They don't dye things as fast as beetroot, but the potato cakes will look a lot more appetising with flecks of purple as opposed to an overwhelming pink colour!

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Makes enough for four

Ingredients

2 onions, chopped down small

2 garlic cloves

3-4 medium potatoes, peeled

Half a courgette

Handful of carrot tops or parsley, finely chopped

Selection of different coloured carrots, about 200g worth 

Salt, pepper

1 cup plain flour, plus about 1/2 a cup more for shaping

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp paprika (optional, for extra flavour) 

Vegetable oil

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Place the onions and garlic in a large mixing bowl before grating in the potato. Add the courgette and carrot tops or parsley. In two other bowls, grate in the carrots.

Once everything is grated up, add in to the mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and sift in the cup of flour, then add the baking powder and paprika if using. You may want to add more salt if you prefer, as the flour will add a bit of a bitter edge to the mix. Stir well so all the onion and garlic is even distributed and there are no clumps of potato.

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You should now have a consistency like coleslaw. It's tempting to add lots of flour but the mix should be fine with the amount here- anymore and it takes over the flavour of the cakes.  

Gently shape a rösti with floured hands so it is about 5cm across. These are better kept small so they cook quicker, and done one at a time for the frying pan so they don't have to be moved about too much.

Heat a pan with oil and once the oil is sizzling, add in the cakes. I found doing two at a time the easiest way. Once you can no longer see the flour on the up-side of the cake, it's time to turn them over. I like to pop the done-ones in a pre-heated oven so they stay warm while the rest are being made and any slightly-underdone ones get heated properly.

Once they are all cooked through, plate up with some cavolo nero or spinach and plenty of tea.  Oh, and, as with the best of breakfasts, these are brilliant with ketchup or brown sauce, too.

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Homemade baked beans

Homemade baked beans

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I've made some changes to my original recipe for this by adding in some fresh tomatoes- it might sound like more than any one can handle pre- lunchtime at the weekend, but quickly blanching them is worth the faff if you have them to hand.  

Makes enough for 4

Ingredients

4 medium tomatoes

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped small

Salt, pepper

1 tin haricot beans

1 tin cannellini beans

1 carton chopped tomatoes

1 sprig rosemary

Lightly score the skin of the tomatoes in two or three places to allow the skin to split when boiling. Then add to a pan of already boiling water and leave for a few minutes, until the tomatoes' skins begin to come off. Turn off the heat and immediately run the tomatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave in a dish to cool down, and once cooled, remove the skins completely.  Chop into small pieces and set aside.

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Sweat the onion in a frying pan with the olive oil, some salt and pepper.  Once the onion has gone soft, add in the beans and stir so the onion is evenly distributed through the beans. You can add a little water if needed to stop the beans from sticking to the pan.

Then add the carton of chopped tomatoes and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the liquid has begun to reduce, add in the fresh tomatoes and leave for another 15 minutes. You may want to add a bit of seasoning at this stage if needed.

Once the beans have reduced right down, add the rosemary and leave for another few minutes. You'll know it's ready when the mixture is thick so it can just be spooned and sticky at the edges of the pan.

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