We had dinner with our friends Colette and David the other night and they made this awesome mejadra. It’s from Ottolenghi (who else?) and I’ve been wanting to try it forever but have just never gotten around to it. So, with a kick in the pants from our dear friends, and Ottolenghi’s cookbook always at the ready, I whipped this up for dinner last night and it was fabulous, especially with a side of Ottolenghi’s cucumber salad. For those of you wondering, mejadra, also know as Mujaddara, moujadara, mudardara, and megadarra is a dish of cooked lentils together with rice and garnished with sautéed onions. Mujaddara is the Arabic word for smallpox because of the look of the the lentils among the rice. The first recorded recipe for mujaddara appears in Kitab al-Tabikh, a cookbook compiled in 1226 by al-Baghdadi in Iraq. Because of its importance in the Arabic diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.” It’s almost that good.



1 cup sunflower oil

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils

2 tsps cumin seed

1½ tbsp coriander seeds

1 cup basmati rice

2 tbsps olive oil

½ tsp ground turmeric

1½ tsp ground allspice

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

Salt and black pepper

2 cups water

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan. When very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice, golden-brown colour and turns crispy. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with two more batches of onion.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain into a colander.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and drop in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over a medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two, until they release those distinctive aromas. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil, then add the cooked lentils and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Finally, tip the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

chana masala

May 19, 2012

chana masala, vegan indian food, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

One of the things I love most about having a food blog is that people now send me recipes. I get them all the time from friends and family alike. “Hey, why don’t you try to veganize this chili burger?” Absolutely! The latest was from my friend Pamela with the note “I made this tonight. It was super good. We had it with black rice and garlic naan bread. The small rascals even ate it!” How could I not give it a whirl? It’s from Canadian Living. It’s fabulous. And it’s a welcome change from the Indian food the kids like to order that I’m sure is packed with ghee. Black rice and garlic naan bread are wonderful accompaniments, as is aloo gobi. Presto, dinner’s ready.

3 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsps grated fresh ginger

2 tsps chili powder

2 tsps ground coriander

2 tsps ground cumin

2 tsps garam masala

1 cup water

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 tsps packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

40 oz chickpeas, cooked (or 2 cans drained and rinsed)

2 tbsps lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two. Stir in chili powder, coriander, cumin and garam masala. Cook until fragrant but be sure not to burn the spices; about 1 minute.

Stir in 1 cup water, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, and chickpeas, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Serve piping hot.

amazing maple beans

November 26, 2011

Every once in awhile we eat at Ruby Watchco since they are so good at accommodating other-than-meat-eating-tastes. Once they served me maple baked beans which were to die for. I’ve been dreaming of those beans ever since. Finally the other night I experimented and landed on a dish that made me smile with delight. Stew up this pot of amazing maple beans and be amazed – sweet, delectable, nourishing, and great on their own or as a side dish to grilled veggies and steamed greens. (Psssttt … the secret is Kozlik’s Amazing Maple Mustard. Pass it on.)

4 1/2 cups cooked beans, navy, kidney, adzuki, or any other type

3 tbsps olive oil

1 large sweet onion

3 tbsps blackstrap molasses

3 tbsps maple syrup

3 tbsps Kozlik’s Amazing Maple Mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

I cup stewed tomatoes

1 tsp sea salt

If cooking your own beans, soak for 8 hours, drain, place in a pot with fresh water, and cook until done. Then drain and set aside. If not, rinse and drain canned bean and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and starting to brown. Add molasses, maple syrup, mustard, apple cider vinegar and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until flavours meld and the mixture reduces slightly. Add beans and sea salt to taste. Let simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes until beans are incorporated into the flavours of this dish and the house is filled with smell and you can’t wait any longer to eat them.

Serve in a big bowl with a hunk of hearty whole grain bread or as a side to steamed greens and grilled veggies.

sweet potato chili

November 3, 2011

Last week I saw 3 or 4 different recipes for sweet potato chili in different places. Weird but wonderful. I decided to shamelessly follow the trend and post my own. Sweet potatoes go over big in our house, and as we head into the depths of fall, it’s always good to have a recipe on hand that can warm the heart and brighten up even the darkest of November nights. And don’t be jealous of my authentic vintage red Dansk dish, this chili looks good in any pot especially with a healthy garnish of cilantro and green onion.

2 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 red peppers, chopped

1 full bulb garlic (about 8 cloves), minced

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 1/2 cups corn (fresh or canned)

1 cup kidney beans, cooked

1 cup black or funky heritage beans, cooked

4 cups stewed tomatoes

some slow-roasted tomatoes if you have them

1 sweet potato, chopped

sea salt and pepper

cilantro, chopped

green onion, chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and saute for about 8 minutes until they turn soft and brown. Stir in the garlic and spices. Reduce the heat and cook until everything turns fragrant, about 2 or 3 minutes but be careful not to burn the spices. Stir in the corn, beans, stewed tomatoes, sl0w-roasted tomatoes (if you have them, if not don’t worry), and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes until flavours meld and the liquid boils down a bit. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve alone or alongside some rice. Garnish liberally with chopped cilantro and chopped green onion.


October 16, 2011

I’m a little confused about what farinata actually is. If you google it, most links lead you to the conclusion that it’s a chickpea flatbread like socca. Yet my new cookbook on Tuscan cooking has it as a stew from Pistoia, a region of Tuscany just west and north of Florence. It doesn’t really matter as recipes are regional by their very nature, and adaptable, and transformable, and personal. So my farinata is a polenta stew – the epitome of peasant, homegrown, comfort food. Picture a little stone house in a Tuscan valley with a small kitchen garden outside full of fall bounty like carrots, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, and herbs. Now add a little wine, a few beans, some polenta and you’ve got a meal that will warm the bellies of the whole family. Cheap. Easy. Filling. Tasty. With leftovers for lunch in the field the next day.

1 1/2 cups dried borlotti beans (or another kind of dried bean), soaked overnight in water to cover, and drained

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 sage leaves

1 bay leaf

3 1/2 oz cavolo nero cabbage

4 tbsps olive oil

1 carrot, chopped

1/2 celery stalk, chopped

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup dried polenta

chopped herbs including thyme, rosemary, oregano

sea salt and pepper

4 tbsps grated pecorino cheese, optional

Place beans in a large pot with plenty of water, one garlic clove, sage leaves, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook beans until tender, seasoning with salt towards the end of the cooking time (this is important – if you add salt too early your beans won’t cook).

Meanwhile, bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the cabbage and simmer for about 5 minutes until cabbage is tender. Drain and chop.

Heat olive oil in a heavy dutch oven or large pot and add the onions. Cook until tender. Add carrot, celery, and garlic. Saute until tender. Add tomatoes and chopped herbs. Let simmer for about 3 minutes. Add white wine and let it reduce by about 1/2.

Drain the beans, discard the sage and bay leaves, reserving the cooking liquid. Place half the whole beans in the dutch oven with the other other vegetables. Mash half the beans and garlic clove with a potato masher until they turn into a paste. Add them to the dutch oven along with the cabbage and 2 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the beans.Let simmer for about 20 minutes.

Pour 4 1/2 cups of the rest of the remaining cooking liquid into the dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper and then sprinkle in the polenta. Cook, stirring regularly and adding more cooking liquid or water if necessary, for 40 minutes, until thickened and cooked through.

If you want to make this farinata true Tuscan style, stir in 4 tbsps grated pecorino cheese. Either way, ladle into bowls and serve with crunchy artisanal toast and a glass of wine from the region.

Viva la Mexico! We were in Tulum last week and got bitten by the Mexican foodie bug – guacamole, pico de gallo, black beans and blackened rice. I’m having a hard time coming back to the snow and cold as I dream of blue water and white beaches so to nurse my holiday hangover we are having a weekend of Mexican food. First on the menu is Black Bean Stew with Chipotle and Tomatoes. A little Blackened Rice on the side with a dollop of salsa and you’re transported to the Mayan Riviera. I can smell the ocean.

1 1/2 cups black beans, sorted and rinsed

2 tsps fresh epazote  (a Mexican herb which I don’t have on hand so I just skipped this ingredient)

1 onion, quartered

1/2 tsp dried oregano


1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1/2 tsp ground chipotle chili

1 cup chopped tomatoes (or I used slow-roasted tomatoes)

4 cilantro sprigs


Drain the beans, cover them wiht 6 cups fresh water, and boil them hard for 10 minutes, skimming of any foam that collects on the surface. Add the epazote, onion, and oregano. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are partially tender, about 45 minutes. Add about 1 tsp salt and continue cooking until completely tender, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Heat oil in a roomy skillet or saucepan over fairly high heat. Add the onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes to soften. Add the beans, chile, tomatoes, and cilantro, lower the heat, and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes. If the beans are dry, add a bit more water. Taste them for salt, then turn the beans into a dish and garnish with more cilantro.

Adapted from Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

The Mung bean, also known as green bean, choroko in Swahili, mung, mongo, moong, moogor moog dal, mash bean, munggo or monggo, green gram, golden gram, and green soy, is the seed of vigna radiata, which is native to Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Whatever name you want to give this little green bean, it packs a nutritional punch of iron, protein, Vitamin C, and tonnes of other life-supporting things. And it’s one of the most cherished foods in ayurveda believed to balance all three doshas. Who can argue with that?

This recipe is from Vij’s new cookbook: Vij’s At Home: Relax, Honey. Love the subtitle. Love the recipe. Serve it with Spicy Cauliflower Steaks and – presto – you’ve got Saturday night dinner relaxing in front of the fire on a drizzly almost-ides-of-March.

1 cup mung beans

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

3 tbsps chopped garlic

2 cups puréed tomatoes

2 tbsps chopped ginger

2 tbsps ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp crushed cayenne pepper

3 cups of water

2 cups coconut milk

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Wash and drain mung beans and set aside.

Heat oil in a medium pot on medium-high for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for 45 seconds, or until they are a darker brown. Add garlic and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until brown but not burned. Stir in tomatoes, then add ginger, coriander, turmeric, salt and cayenne. Stir and sauté masala for 5 minutes, or until oil glistens. Add water and mung beans, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Taste beans to make sure they are cooked (I reduced the amount of water needed; if the mixture is drying out and you need more simply add 1/2 cup at a time).

Stir in coconut milk and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat (if you want to thicken your curry some more, you can let it simmer on medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes). Stir in cilantro and serve.

forget-the-shepherd’s pie

February 20, 2011

It’s not that I don’t love shepherds. I’ve met a few in my day and they were all lovely. But for this pie we have no need of sheep or their trusty herders – just yummy lentilles du Puy, which, by the way, have been called the caviar of lentils because of their rich, nutty flavour. (From the Auvergne region of south-central France, du Puy lentils are grown in volcanic soil giving the lentils a mineral-rich taste. They also have less starch than other lentils because they “dry on the vine” all by themselves.)

But enough about the lentils and just one word about the cheese. I know I said I don’t like substitutes – if you’re not going to eat something, like cheese or bacon or chicken, don’t pretend to eat it. Well, curiousity got the better of me and I bought some vegan cheese.  You don’t need it in this recipe but can add it if you think you need that additional structural element. Or, if you’re not 100% vegan and want the real cheesy-McCoy use cheddar or, better yet, gruyère. But whether with cheese or no cheese, fake or real cheese, this dish is a winner.

2 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups du Puy lentils, rinsed and drained

4 or 5 sprigs thyme

a little rosemary and marjoram, chopped

1 can crushed tomatoes (796 ml)

2/3 cup veggie stock

1/2 cup white or red wine

2 zucchini, diced

salt and pepper

4 lbs, or about 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 more cloves garlic, whole

1 sprig rosemary

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups vegan cheddar

salt and pepper

In a heavy dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute or two until garlic becomes fragrant. Stir in lentils, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and cook for 3 minutes more.

Stir in tomatoes, stock, and wine and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and cook covered, stirring often, for another 30 minutes until thickened and lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes, whole garlic cloves and sprig of rosemary in salted boiling water until potatoes are tender. Remove rosemary sprig. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and return potatoes and garlic to saucepan. Mash together with olive oil and some of the reserved cooking liquid, salt and pepper, and half of the cheese (if you are using it).

Put lentil mixture into a large baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese (if you’re using it) and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and browned on top, about 20 minutes. Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes for the flavours to meld and serve with crunchy baguette, green salad, and a nice light red wine.



January 20, 2011

Before you get the cassoulet recipe you get a little history lesson. Did you know that “according to legend, cassoulet was invented during the Hundred Year War (1377 to 1453) when the fortress town of Castelnaudary in Southwestern France was besieged by the British and the locals were reduced to near starvation. Out of this hunger and desperation, Cassoulet was born from the meager dried beans, sausage and preserved poultry supplies on hand. Cassoulet was named for the cassole, the primitive earthenware pot in which the cassoulet is cooked. The two are inextricably linked, as its distinctive shape, slanted narrow at the base and wide at its mouth maximizes the beans’ exposure to the oven’s heat, forming the true cassoulet’s signature crust.” If you want to read more, click here.

So fast forward 600 years and alas near starvation is not imminent and the sausage and poultry supplies not abundant. But the taste buds are craving a hearty French dish and I’m curious as I’ve heard the cassoulet has garnered a sort of cult status among the culinary cognoscenti. What to do? Veganize it of course. Julia Child would be horrified, as would be the good people of Castelnaudary. But oh well. Can’t worry about that.

2 cups haricot (or navy) beans, cooked

2 cups assorted vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, fennel, celery, onions, sweet peppers, zucchini, parsnips), roasted

olive oil

2 cloves garlic

sprigs of thyme, rosemary or other herbs of choice

4 or 5 sun-dried tomatoes

can of tomato sauce

1.5 cups bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic


salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight and discard the water. Simmer soaked beans slowly in fresh unsalted water until done. Drain them and save the liquid.

Peel vegetables if necessary and cut into bite size chunks. Spread them out in a single layer on a roasting pan, or cookie sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat lightly, and stir them up with a little salt and pepper. Add a few peeled and split garlic cloves and herbs to taste (a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary and a bay leaf or two). Roast vegetables at 350 degrees;  longer-cooking vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, fennel, celery, and onions can be roasted together; slower-cooking vegetables like zucchini, red peppers, and parsnips can be added slightly later in the roasting process.

Soak sun-dried tomatoes in freshly boiled water for a few minutes until soft. Drain, saving the water, and chop coarsely.

Then prepare the stock. In a large saucepan heat 2 cups or so of the bean water and sun dried tomato water, together with a can of tomatoes or a small bottle of tomato concentrate, a generous quantity of mashed roasted garlic, a hearty glug of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and break up the solid bits with a potato masher. Boil vigorously for a couple of minutes to emulsify.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic and parsley in olive oil until tender and fragrant. Add bread crumbs and cook stirring until crunchy and browned.

Mix all the cooked vegetables together with the sun-dried tomato. Put a layer of beans into your cassole (or whatever you choose to cook it in), then all the roasted vegetables, and finish off with the rest of the beans. Add the hot stock carefully, allowing it to settle as you pour. Top up if necessary with more of the bean cooking water, stopping when the level is about a half-inch below the surface of the beans.

Finally, cover the top with a good layer of bread crumb mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and bake the pot in a hot oven until the crust is brown and crisp. The ingredients are already cooked, so you are only combining their flavors. Of course if you make this the day before you plan on serving it, the flavours have more time to get acquainted.

I have a confession to make – I have never cooked with lemongrass. I like lemongrass but it’s just never entered my lexicon or, more practically speaking, my pantry. I decided to change that last night by trying out Nigel Slater‘s recipe called chickpeas with pumpkin lemongrass and coriander. Since I don’t stock pumpkin but do stock all sorts of squashes I decided to make it with butternut squash instead. It was great over basmati rice with a few steamed sugar snap peas on the side.

200 grams dried chickpeas, soaked in mineral water for several hour, (or two cans cooked chickpeas)

2 medium onions

2 tbsp groundnut oil

4 cloves garlic

thumb-sized ginger

3 large stalks lemongrass

2 tsps ground coriander

2 tsps ground tumeric

6 green cardamoms

2 hot red chillies

500g butternut squash, peeled and seeded

250ml vegetable stock

400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

handful cilantro, chopped

2 limes, halved

Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. Let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, till tender.
Peel the onions and chop them quite finely. Pour the oil into a deep casserole and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and the ginger, remove any tough leaves from the lemongrass, then make all into a rough paste in a food processor. Stir into the softened onions and continue to cook. Add the ground coriander and turmeric, then lightly crush the seeds of the green cardamoms and deseed and finely chop the fresh chillies before stirring them in.

Keep the heat fairly low and on no account allow the ingredients to brown.

Chop the pumpkin into large chunks, though no larger than you would like to put in your mouth, then add to the pan, along with the drained cooked chickpeas and the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle bubble till the pumpkin is tender. Stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife, you don’t want it to collapse.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a splash of oil into a nonstick pan and tip in the yellow mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add them to the pumpkin together with the coriander leaves. Serve with the rice and the lime halves, ready to squeeze over at the last minute.