Saturday, 10 May 2014

Ingredient of the Month 31: Camargue red rice

This rice keeps its lovely reddish-brown colour when cooked.
Better late than never, I say! And this month's ingredient was worth waiting for, I promise. We've all heard of brown rice, basmati rice, risotto rice, fragrant rice, sushi rice and even wild rice (which is not actually rice), but there's another kind; Camargue red rice, which is both delicious and attractive, and well worth discussing here. It's also sometimes called Provencal wild rice, as the Camargue borders on Provence.
Camargue red rice is a fairly recent development, and is grown in the wetlands of the Camargue region of southern France. (South of Arles, and bordering the Mediterranean coast between Marseilles and Montpelier.) Although it looks somewhat hard and woody, (it is an unrefined,medium-short grain rice) once cooked it has quite a soft texture, and a lovely, almost nutty flavour.
Nutritionally, red rice is quite similar to regular basmati rice and brown rice except that it is slightly higher in fat. In terms of percentages, it is mainly a carb. food which also contains a useful amount of protein to add to your daily total (ie: 7-9g protein in 100g uncooked rice, or 7-9%). Like some other rice, however, red rice is a source of vitamins B1, B2 and B3, calcium and iron. Being wholegrain, it also contains fibre.
Cooking with red rice: When cooked, red rice holds its shape yet becomes lovely and soft, with a noticeably nutty flavour. Try subbing red rice for your usual kind to make delicately delicious and nutritious risottos and paellas. I like to replace 1/4 of our regular long grain brown rice with red rice to make an attractive, speckled side that's flavourful and an interesting texture. (It goes really well with roasted Mediterranean-style veggies like courgettes, fennel, aubergines, tomatoes and peppers.) I'm going to try out red rice in salads soon; there are some great pictures and blog posts of red rice salads for inspiration...

What's your favourite rice? Do you use Camargue red rice? If so, how?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Inspired by... 6 : Couscous tabbouleh- vegan

Tabbouleh is a delicious addition to your picnic, barbecue or lunchbox
 I recently started following Katie's blog Little Miss Meat Free and pretty soon started feeling seriously inspired by her beautiful photographs and simple yet stylish approach to vegan food. (Take a look at the beautiful, lavish vegan tea party she put on for her lucky family!) Last Saturday she posted this recipe for tabbouleh, which straight away reminded me of my student days when you could buy it dehydrated in a packet, to which you just added water, oil and lemon juice. (I did learn to make it myself pretty soon though. Never did feel comfortable with packet "food".) I love it that she didn't bother with onions, too- their flavour in tabbouleh tends to drown our everything else. After reading the post, I went downstairs to cook lunch and guess what? I made tabbouleh and flatbreads to go with a soup of tomato, veg and yuba sticks* and a green, olive-y salad. Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgar (cracked) wheat, but- as Katie suggests- couscous is a good substitute. Come to think of it, you could even use quinoa if you need it to be gluten free. The main change I made to Katie's recipe was to add some torn mint leaves because: 1: I didn't have quite enough flat-leaved parsley and 2: I love mint and the first tabbouleh I remember had dried mint in it.

*Beancurd- or dried tofu skin 
We teamed it up with our flatbreads (and added powdered coriander seed to the dough for extra Middle Eastern ambience)
So here's my recipe, and thank you to Katie for the inspiration! (Serves 6-8):
300g organic wholegrain couscous
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 tabs fresh flat-leaved parsley
2 rounded tabs dried parsley
a handful of fresh mint leaves (optional)
1 tsp seasalt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 tabs extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tabs lemon juice
lemon wedges to garnish (optional)
  • Soak the couscous in enough hot water to cover it plus about 1cm. Top it up if it gets absorbed before the grains have softened.
  • Meanwhile, chop the parsley and tear the mint if using. Have the cherry tomatoes.
  • When the couscous is soft and has absorbed all the water, throw on the herbs, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Tip: Try making this quinoa instead of couscous or bulgar if you want a gluten free version.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Raw Vegan Millionaires' Shortbread- wheat free

The look and textures are surprisingly like the cooked dairy and sugar version, and the taste is quite similar too.
No cooking? No dairy? No wheat? No sugar?- No problem! 
You don't need an oven or any special equipment to whip up these raw vegan treats if you buy fine oatmeal and ground almonds; in fact, when you taste them they're so much like the original you will be rawstruck! (sorry...) I have seen lots of different versions of these raw "bakes" recently, so I decided to have a go at developing my own recipe. I used finely-ground oats as well as almonds in the base. Some people use coconut, but I didn't want to change the flavours too much from the baked version. I stuck to ingredients that would give a buttery, sweet and vanilla-y flavour to the caramel too- no cashew butter in there for me. The top layer is just my standard raw vegan chocolate, made with cacao, only this time I ran out of agave after the first 50ml so I subbed date syrup for the rest; this gave a beautiful dark glossy finish without too much of an intrusive date flavour but it did not set as well as the all-agave version. The textures in this recipe are also quite close to the baked version; a crumbly, slightly crunchy base with gooey caramel, but the raw chocolate does not seem to set hard like conventional chocolate; it'a a bit more fudge-y. Once you assemble the ingredients, it's a fairly quick and easy recipe to make; quicker and easier than the baked version, in fact. This recipe makes 15 small squares. You only need a cookie-sized piece because it's so sweet! Warning: These will disappear from the fridge very quickly once people in your house get to know about them, so be sure to eat your share before they catch on...
They look so much like the traybake they're based on!
"Shortbread" base:
4 tabs melted coconut oil
200g ground almonds
1 tab date syrup (or agave)
100g organic porridge oats
a generous pinch of seasalt
Date caramel:
3-4 tabs melted coconut oil
400g fresh dates, stoned
2 1/2 tsps natural alcohol free vanilla essence
a small pinch of seasalt
Chocolate topping:
1/2 cup (125ml) agave (only I used date syrup after the first 100ml agave as I ran out of it)
3/4 cup (50g) cacao powder
1/3 cup (90ml) melted coconut oil

  • To make the first layer, grind the almonds and the oats until quite fine and mix all the ingredients together. Press firmly down into a rectangular tin lined with baking parchment and leave in the fridge to solidify while you make the second layer.
  • The date caramel is made by mashing everything together. I actually did this by hand to see if it was possible (it is!) but you could use a blender or food processor. Spread it evenly on top of the base.
  • Mix all the ingredients for the top together and pour on the caramel, making sure it spreads evenly and covers the middle layer. Set in the fridge.
  • When set, cut carefully into little rectangles. Store in the fridge.

Allergy notes: I labelled these as wheat free rather than gluten free because although technically they contain no gluten, some people who are sensitive to gluten also get a similar reaction to the protein in oats. Also, unless you use suitably labelled oats, they will have been milled on a factory line which also handles wheat, so may contain traces of gluten from that. While we're on the subject: The Yogi Vegetarian blog takes no responsibility for allergic reactions incurred from making "free-from" recipes and does not claim to be an authority on this subject. (See blog policies page.) It's up to the reader to judge whether they will react to certain ingredients or not.