Pinto bean cracker recipe

I’ve read a few things here and there (nicely summarized in this article) questioning whether beans should be soaked before cooking from dried. This kind of article seems to gloss over the reduction in cooking time as unimportant whereas for those worried about fuel costs and/or without a sufficiently large oven and reliant on the stovetop method it is worth it to halve the cooking time even if you have to wait longer overall. In addition, longer cooking time using the stovetop means more steam, so more condensation which is annoying to deal with sometimes.

Despite my misgivings I decided to try the no soak route with some pinto beans. It could be that my beans were just old, or not a good variety, but the results did not impress me. I got some beans bursting while others were still very firm, and the skins are the toughest I’ve experienced in a long time. Maybe I’ll give no-soak another go down the line, but for now I’m happy to do what I’ve always done, which is why I put 1kg chick peas in my preserving pot this morning, covered in plenty of cold water and won’t boil them up until later on tonight. Then I’ll portion them up and freeze most of them.

Still, I have lots of tough-skinned pinto beans to get through right now, unsuitable for stew-like uses, so I thought I’d try making some rustic crackers where the texture would add to the pleasantly munchy effect instead of being a chore.

plated2 (2)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups cooked, drained pinto beans

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup porridge oats

3 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional. I’m not sure this adds much but it was sitting around on the counter…)

1/2 tsp yeast extract (e.g. marmite), or miso paste would also probably be good.

1tsp mixed herbs (I used Italian mix which included dried peppers)

1-2 cloves of garlic or a pinch of garlic powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

pinch salt

 

Method:

Line baking sheet and lightly grease with oil.

Put beans in a food processor (I used the mini chopper that came with my cheapo stick blender) and add 1/3 cup water. Pulse until a rough paste is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Add seeds and blend for a minute or so, stopping and scraping down again. Add oats and blend. Add rest of ingredients and blend. You should have a dough that is a bit sticky but that you can scoop up and roll into a ball-shape in your hands.

Taste a little pinch of the unbaked mix for seasoning. Obviously they’ll taste better once they’re baked and the flavours will concentrate a bit, but if they seem too bland for you then add more herbs or salt or maybe a dash of mustard or something.

Leave the dough to sit for about 20 minutes so the oats absorb excess moisture.

Take walnut-sized balls of dough (about a tablespoonful) and flatten them a bit with your hands, then place them on the baking sheet. Although they won’t spread, leave a gap because once they’re in place you can flatten them down further with the palm of your hand. I rubbed about 1/3 tsp olive oil across my palm before pressing down to get a nice smooth finish. You want them to be about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick.

Bake in a moderately hot oven (around 195c/380f/a bit above gas mark 5) for about 15 minutes (check they’re not burning after 10 mins. I don’t have fan assist and I haven’t checked my oven temp for a while!). Carefully flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes until they’re just starting to get a tinge of brown around the edges, so they’ll get nice and crunchy.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. They’d probably freeze pretty well too.

Makes around 15 crackers.

 

 

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Hangover food: chickpea omelette sandwich

I haven’t been drinking much since recently, but went out to meet friends last night and had a couple of ciders. I thought I was being careful (my trick is to order a half pint of cider in a pint glass, topped up with soda water like a cheapskate even-lower-alcohol spritzer) but I still woke up feeling slightly rough this morning.

It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that fried food and carbs are what’s wanted the morning after a night out. There wasn’t anything ready-made lying around but I had half a baguette in the freezer and while it was warming up in the oven I made a chickpea omelette using half a cup of dried chickpeas (could use chickpea flour/besan if you don’t have a blender that can tackle whole chickpeas), a cup of water, pinch of salt, pepper and smoked paprika and two cloves of garlic, plus a tiny dash of vinegar.

The trick to chickpea omelettes is to fry them low and slow, otherwise the innards stay gooey while the outsides scorch. This amount of batter made two, and the first one turned into scramble because I tried to turn it before it had set, but it still tasted great. I was more patient with the second one, so it’s a bit more photogenic!

chickpea-omelette-sandwich-hotsauce1


Potato-onion-cakes fried in an onion ring (AKA the real delicious potatoes)

I hang out on the Post Punk Kitchen discussion forum and from time to time spammers chance their luck, as happens with all forums. The mods are great at deleting things pretty quickly, but I sometimes click through because they are occasionally hilarious.

This morning a spammer posted two “recipes” with some extremely weird ingredients, instructions that made no sense BUT one post (entitled “potato latkes”) was accompanied by a picture that made me want gussied-up fried potatoes – it was what looked like mashed potatoes and very finely diced spring-onions or green peppers bound by a ring of onion. The other post was entitled “delicious potatoes” and was clearly a picture of latkes, so I choose to think the picture illustrating latkes was actually the one that was supposed to go with the “delicious potatoes” recipe. I didn’t have spring onions or peppers, but here’s my interpretation anyway…

Delicious potatoes before baking

Delicious potatoes before baking

Delicious potatoes - baked vs. fried

Delicious potatoes – baked vs. fried

Delicious potatoes as part of a delicious brunch

Delicious potatoes as part of a delicious brunch

How I made the delicious potatoes:

250g potatoes, boiled, drained and mashed

A single 220g onion, sliced widthwise into 4

olive oil for frying and basting

1 tsp soya sauce

1tsp balsamic vinegar

1tsp Herbamare seasoning salt

1TBS nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp smoked paprika.

Method: Take the two middle (fat) slices of onion and separate the outer rings. I used 6 rings, but you might want to use 7 or 8 instead and underfill them a little bit, because the filling stays the same size and the onion rings shrink when they’re heated, as you can see from the second picture above.

Chop up the rest of the onion and fry it on a low-medium heat in a splash of olive oil with the soya sauce and balsamic vinegar until browned and caramelised, about 12-15 minutes.

Add the onion into the mashed potato, stir in the rest of the ingredients, pack the resulting mix firmly into the onion rings and either brush with oil and bake in a medium-hot oven around 200 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or fry for 5-6 minutes on each side in a pan. I tried both, and they both taste good, I think presentation-wise the fried ones look a bit more appetising but there’s not much in it.

I wasn’t just going to eat 6 delicious potato cakes on their own (although I probably could!) so I cooked up some fancy baked beans (by fancy I just mean I spooned some from a tin and added a few peas, tomatoes, slices of garlic and chopped fresh coriander), Fry’s frankfurter-style sausages and a few fried mushrooms. Very pleasant brunch indeed!


Creamy chocolate peanut-butter mousse

Having an obsession with something traditionally made with egg whites, double cream and/or gelatine is tricky as a vegan! When I was a child, my mother used to make an incredibly boozy chocolate mousse using dark chocolate, egg whites, cream and liberal splashes of brandy. I remember eyeing up the individual glass serving dishes chilling in the fridge in preparation for dinner parties. Perhaps I got to “help clean” the mixing bowl and I am sure I got my own dish at dinner, but I would happily have eaten the lot of them if I could have got away with it!

Since finally getting a long-wished-for Vitamix several years ago I’ve made a lot of moussey desserts, mainly based on nuts. They aren’t quite as smooth or light as the mousses of my childhood, but they have their own charms. Soon I hope to start experimenting with aquafaba but until then, I’m mighty pleased with the peanut-butter and chocolate creation I made a couple of days ago, especially as I think it will work as a recipe even without access to a high-speed blender if a few modifications are made.

The quantities I used made a huge amount, so I’ve frozen an ice-cream tub full in the hopes that it might work semi-frozen.

If you’re going to try this I suggest halving the quantities, which will still make several generous servings!

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Meridian organic because it’s palm-oil-free and I’m trying to be good about that, plus it was on special offer, £5 for a kilo from the Better Food Company in Bristol earlier this year)
  • 1 cup dark (72%) chocolate chips (I used Plamil)
  • 2 Tbs sugar (could be left out if using sweeter chocolate)
  • 4 cups non-dairy milk (I used value soya)
  • 1.5 Tbs flax seeds
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract

I put a cup of milk into the blender, followed by the peanut butter, flax seeds, then another couple of cups of milk and the extracts. That got blended up until the friction started heating the mixture, then I added the chocolate and sugar and it melted in and blended. It soon became evident that the mix was going to be too thick, so another cup of milk got added, then I poured it into a variety of containers and left it to chill in the fridge for a few hours. Once it sets it’s light and airy, creamy but with a slightly floury texture from the peanut butter. I daresay there would have been a smoother result from a more processed style of peanut butter, but this is fine, it’s kind of velvety!

chocolate-pb-mousse

I also added a few mix-ins to some of the pots, such as oats and raisins, and I blended an orange into the last cup or so of mixture to see if that would work (it was okay, but probably not worth repeating).

If I were going to make this without a blender, I would probably warm a couple of cups of milk, add the peanut butter and stir until it had thoroughly blended in, then add the chocolate and whip in another cup of milk, see what the texture was like and add more milk as necessary. I probably wouldn’t add flax if making a non-blender version as it’d make the texture grainy. If I try this version I will update this recipe, but if you happen to fancy trying it in the meantime please comment and let me know how you get on!


Not-hummus pizza

In my last entry I posted a recipe for sunflower-seed and chickpea spread. After I had finished my lunch I changed my mind about putting the spread away as it was, that amount of sunflower seeds made a very rich smooth spread, but I decided it was a bit too rich so added about 2/3 cup more chickpeas, more lemon juice, garlic and water, so there’s been plenty to keep me going over the past few days.

Some got turned into a sour-cream and onion dip for crisps and tortilla chips by adding in a few spoonfuls of Tesco plain soya yoghurt, along with dried onion powder, cider vinegar and nooch, but I still had a tub left. Since I was making bread today anyway it was no hassle to make a pizza base from some of the dough, chop up some onion, yellow pepper, a few mushrooms, a couple of cloves of garlic, add a couple of spoonfuls of chopped tomatoes and some dried mixed herbs, pinch of salt, mix that all up with a splash of oil, cover the base with the veg and then dollop a few spoonfuls of chickpea spread and smush it onto the top, along with a few halved olives. This went into the oven while it was pre-heating for the rest of the bread – I know conventional pizza-making wisdom says make sure your oven is smoking hot before putting your pizza in, but I defy convention :p

pizza topped with veg and chickpea-sunflower spread

I am under no illusions that this is a pretty picture. Not bad for about 5 minutes of actual hands-on cooking though! 🙂


Sunflower not-hummus

I wouldn’t want to risk enraging Ottolenghi by calling the creamy chickpea dip component of my lunch hummus. This has never seen a sesame seed, but it gets a good dose of seed-based oil and fibre from sunflower seeds. It’s not exactly low fat, but the fat that is in there is un-heated and unrefined (if that is important to you). Spread on crackers, topped with cucumber and red pepper slices, I’d say this does the job of filling-in for hummus quite nicely, thank you very much.

Sunflower not-hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic!)
  • 3 or more black or green olives, pitted (optional, but I like to add a subtle olive taste without quite so many calories as using olive oil).

Method:

Put the sunflower seeds and water into a blender and blend until they make a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and carry on blending, pausing to stir now and then until everything is nice and smooth. Add more lemon juice/salt if necessary, or a splash more water if it’s too thick. Garnish with smoked paprika, chopped herbs, chopped olives etc.

This makes a good batch, I’ve got enough to stick in a tub in the fridge for a few sandwiches next week. I’m pretty sure this was cheaper than making regular hummus too, since I got the sunflower seeds in bulk from Currant Affairs, I think they were about £3.20 for 1 kilo. I don’t know if you can get tahini for that price, but I doubt it. And despite being a bit unbalanced when it comes to essential fatty acids, sunflower seeds are pretty good in terms of nutrition. The chickpeas were £5 for 5 kilos from Tesco, which works out cheaper than split peas.

As an aside, I was planning on having this with what I thought was left over bread in the freezer from Below the Line and gherkins I bought from Lidl. When I’d actually defrosted the “bread” I discovered it was an experimental peanut butter and jam cake I’d made in my practice run before the challenge! I did toy with having it anyway (a la brioche bun with a burger or one of those terrifying doughnut burgers) but then I couldn’t get the gherkin jar open either, so it ended up on rosemary crackers instead!


A new low for oats…

…in a good way!

lidl oats

I noticed earlier this year that a Lidl store was “under construction” on their store-finder 0.7 miles from my house. I’ve been checking the site every couple of weeks since then and it finally showed as open when I looked today, so I eagerly trotted over to check it out.

I found a few good bits and bobs. I got a can of coconut milk that is actually mostly coconut (rather than 48% plus thickeners and water, like some I have seen) for 79p, 4 big bulbs of garlic for 89p and some cashew nuts at £1.49 for 200g (so just under 75p per 100g). They also had some of the lowest prices I’d seen for a few staples I didn’t buy at this time but wanted to note for future reference. I didn’t buy the oats pictured above, but in a real penny-watching situation the information that 500g bags are available for 39p is useful. These packets didn’t say what country the oats are from that I could see, but I did find some Scottish porridge oats at 99p for 1kg, which is also a pretty good price. Other highlights included big jars of gherkins for 65p (I’ve had them before and they’re really nice, and the jars are a good size for re-using), and 1kg sugar for 49p, which is the lowest price I’ve seen sugar for quite a while (EDIT: I’ve since been to Aldi, who are also selling sugar for 49p and theirs is produced in the UK, a bonus for my next challenge which is going to be a local eating one).

Lidl is good in marking a lot of their own brand stuff suitable for vegans, even if you have to take a magnifying glass to the label to spot it sometimes, so that’s another plus for them. They also had a not-too-bad selection of Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified goods and one or two organic items as well.

I’m pleased to add this option to the already wide choice of supermarkets nearby, especially as it means I can now walk there then wander around for hours on my own, price-checking stuff and peering at labels and telling passers by that this is a great price (yes, I did that to some poor man nearby when I spotted the oats today!), rather than having to con someone into giving me a lift and then trying their patience so they eventually resort to “herding” me towards the tills!


I <3 peanut butter!

Eating peanut butter every day on the Below the Line challenge in no way diminished my fondness for the stuff. As a child I found it unpleasantly claggy and did not enjoy the taste, but as an adult something changed and now I love peanut butter in both savoury and sweet recipes, crunchy or smooth.

I found I had just over 100g left of my value jar, and since the rest had gone into savoury crackers and salad it was time to bring on the sweetness. I whipped up a batch of simple cookies with the help of some brown sugar and a dash of rum.

Ingredients:

175g self-raising flour

105g crunchy peanut butter

45g vegetable oil

50g water

125g brown sugar

10g rum (optional, or you could use vanilla. I’m finding the alcohol base in flavour extracts goes a long way to boost baked goods, regardless of the ostensible flavour, and using supermarket brand rum is about half the cost of vanilla extract).

Method:

Weigh peanut butter into mixing bowl. If it’s the last of the peanut butter in the jar, add the oil and water to the jar and shake vigorously to help dislodge the last of the stuff hanging on to the bottom and side of the jar. Scrape into mixing bowl. Add the rum and sugar, and mix it all up to a runny paste.

Add enough flour to make a soft dough. In my case this was around 175g, you might try a bit more or less. Mix in with a table knife or spoon until no dry flour is left.

Take spoonfuls of dough and roll into the obligatory walnut-sized balls. Flatten down a bit and place on a lined baking sheet in a 180c/350f/gas4 oven with a cm or so space (they do spread a bit) for around 15 minutes (check after 10 to make sure they’re browning evenly and not burning) until just beginning to turn brown. This length of baking turned out crunchy-topped biscuits which are still a little soft and cakey on the inside, if you want them crunchy all the way through turn the heat down a notch and bake for longer.

These are a simple cookie which I think would go nicely with a banana milkshake. Sultanas and/or chocolate chips would be a great addition as well. Maybe next time!

peanut butter sweet cookies on a blue and white patterned china plate

peanut butter sweet cookies on a plate


What’s left in the cupboard after Below the Line

In terms of surviving I did fine on this challenge. I have hayfever or some kind of seasonal blossom allergy which is lessening my appetite anyway, which I guess was a kind of silver lining last week! Even so, I got quite sick of some of the things I had chosen – it’s going to be a good long while before I can face a pickled onion again, although if I was having to eat on less than £1 a day long-term they are definitely a valuable flavour addition (just not for nearly every meal!).

Here’s the list of items left at the end of 5 days:

  • approx 30g tomato purée
  • 20 teabags
  • approx 125g mustard (about 2/3 of the jar)
  • approx 200g pickled onions & pickling liquid (just under 1/2 of the jar)
  • 230g cornflakes
  • 810g flour*
  • 250g carrots*
  • Maybe 70g peanut butter (about 1/5 of the jar)
  • 378g red cabbage (plus about 1/2 a tupperware container of slaw leftover, and maybe 200g of the stuff I cooked)
  • The vast majority of the salt!

* 330g of the flour is in the freezer, along with about 250g of the carrots, which made spectacularly brick-like carrot bread. I had been planning to take this bread on my journey but it was too heavy and unpalatable, so I will defrost it some time to use as something like beanburger bulk filler.

There are no potatoes or split peas left. Unfortunately I did not consume all of the split peas, I had an accident where I dropped one of the containers and at least half of the cooked peas spilt over the cooker and the floor and I didn’t feel they could all be saved (although I did rescue and wash off what I could of the ones that fell on the counter-top).

This means over the course of 5 days I’ve consumed

  •  690g flour (2450cal, about 65-70g protein, some calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin)
  • 1500g potatoes (1155cal, 30g protein, some vitamin c, iron, b6 and magnesium)
  • about 280g peanut butter, 290 minus 10 for what’s left of the slaw (1898cal, 73.9g protein)
  • 270g cornflakes (1007cal, 20.25g protein, an average of 45% rda per day of vits B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid, b12 and pantothenic acid, and 30% rda of iron)
  • about 220g carrots, 250 minus 30 for what’s left of the slaw (90cal, 2g protein, beta carotene to make vitamin A – sources vary really widely in their estimates, I’m going to guess I averaged 50% of the rda, but that’s a very very rough estimate)
  • 542g red cabbage, 892 minus 150 for what’s left of the slaw and about 200 left of cooked cabbage (168cal, 7.6g protein, about 100% average daily vitamin c rda)
  • Approx 500g cooked split peas (590cal, 40g protein, 22mg iron)
  • And a few odd calories and nutrients from the onions, mustard and the greens I foraged.

Calorie total for 5 days is approx 7358, which divides to 1471 per day. I lead a fairly sedentary life although I do a reasonable amount of walking, and I’m not tall. To maintain my weight I probably would have needed to eat about 200-250 calories more per day. I certainly could have done this if I hadn’t been scared of running out of the peanut butter and rationed it more carefully than needed, or if I’d managed to eat more cornflakes.

Protein total for 5 days is approx 223.25g, which divides to 44.65g per day. That’s a bit low, I would have been okay if I hadn’t dropped the split peas, or been miserly with the peanut butter.

I hadn’t expected to hit the targets for everything, I don’t think I did, and that’s fine for this length of time. If I had been doing this for 10 days, or had combined with someone else so there was £10 to spend for 30 meals rather than £5 for 15 the whole thing would have been a great deal easier and more palatable, but doing it this way has made me even more grateful than usual that I don’t live in a food desert!

Once again, I should stress that I am exceptionally lucky to live in a big city, within walking distance of several large supermarkets with ‘value’ ranges of foods, and who need to price their other items competitively. I have easy access to the internet so I could price-check most of the items I was interested in online (the only one I had to visit in person to view the prices was Aldi). I’ve been looking at the World Bank’s report on extreme poverty and realised anew that I can’t begin to conceive of the kind of life that people living on less (sometimes much less) than £1 a day are having to put up with. Many of the countries with large percentages of their population living at this level have average life-expectancies of 50 or less. The percentage of people with access to the internet, television or even radio is far far less than in my country. I feel helpless when I see how vast the situation is, and yet according to that report there are less people in what they class as absolute poverty than there were 30 years ago.

I don’t know what the solution is, at all. I really wish I did. I hope that donating to poverty-alleviating charities does reach the intended targets in a timely fashion, and I will continue to save where I can so that I can donate what I can, and hope others will do the same. It’s also worth considering what volunteering work could be done, either in charity shops for organisations providing aid, or in food banks to help communities who are struggling closer to home – if we can lift our own societies out of relative poverty the government will have even less excuse to reduce aid they provide to those in countries who need it most. And if you’ve read this far and have any pet schemes for helping to raise people out of poverty, please let me know in the comments section!


Day two – lunch

Yesterday I opened my little tin of tomato purée. You can’t keep food in the tin once it’s open (not sure why, but I know it’s a bad idea!) so I set about decanting the rest of it after I’d used a spoonful for my soup. I thought it would fit into a handy small glass jar I’d saved from something else but it turned out there was about a tablespoon left over in the can that wouldn’t fit, so I thought I’d see if it made a difference to some quick-bread.

I filled the purée can almost to the top with water and stirred so the leftover tomato paste reconstituted nicely and then added that to 100g SR flour and about 1/8 teaspoon salt. Turns out there was too much liquid  so had to add another 50g or so of flour to make a rollable dough. I rolled it out to a couple of cm thick and baked it in a hottish oven (around 200 degrees) for about 18 minutes. I had a chunk for breakfast but about 2/3 went towards my lunch:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I was quite pleased with this, it reminded me of a ploughman’s lunch. The tomato flavour is quite subtle, but it makes the bread a lot tastier, and to go with the bread I have red-cabbage slaw, dandelion leaves, a mustardy split-pea dip/spread (cooked split peas with pickle liquid, mustard, pinch of salt and water to thin, smushed with a hand-blender), a cold baked potato and a pickled onion.

I know I said I wouldn’t break down the cost of each meal, but just for the sake of curiosity I did it this time:

100g slaw – 5.6p

200g cooked split peas 9.4p

15g mustard (would reduce to 10g next time, it was just a bit too hot!) 2p

30g pickle liquid/an onion 2p

baked potato approx 200g – 11.6p

approx 100g flour’s worth of bread 3p

approx 15g tomato puree 2.11p

Total 35.7p