Posts Tagged With: healthy

7 Days a Vegan – Comfort Food

This vegan adventure hasn’t been easy on me. I won’t lie. By Friday I was super cranky and yearning for something familiar. I had anticipate this and kept a few meals in my back pocket for such an occasion.

My friends and i were heading to the theatre on Friday evening, so I needed something quick, delicious, and comforting to prepare and gobble down before we started the long drive downtown. I opted for chapatis and dengu (lentils/dhal).


I can’t begin to describe how I make the chapatis, it’s so instinctive for me. But I can do a quick rundown of how to make the dengu.

Take some red lentils and boil them in water with salt. I don’t understand people who boil lentils in stock. I always feel like the water doesn’t “enter” them properly.

While the lentils are boiling away, in a separate pan fry up some chopped onions, green peppers, garlic and ginger. When they are translucent, push them to the side and toss some whole spices into the oil. I used cardamom, mustard seeds , cumin and coriander. When the mustard seeds start popping, mix the onions and spices together, before frying off a healthy dollop of tomato paste. Once the tomato paste is cooked out, throw in some chopped tomato and a healthy glut of coconut cream, then add the boiled lentils and let the two cook together.

Just before serving throw in some chopped fresh coriander leaves, and enjoy!


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7 Days a Vegan – Dim Sum



I’ve been eating rather rich food the last few days, so I was keen to have something fresh and clean for dinner. Ok, so I had chips for lunch. I was craving mashed potatoes with oodles of cream and cheese and fries were a good way to satisfy my potato craving without compromising my vegan ways. But I digress. Point: clean and fresh for dinner.

I have no idea how I dreamed up the idea of dim sum for dinner. it just felt right. The only problem is that all the store-bought wonton wrappers I’ve ever bought are rather yellow, which must mean they’re made with egg yolks, right? I could make my own wonton wrappers, but is there even a thing such as vegan wonton wrappers?

Turns out, no-egg wonton wrappers do exist and they’re not even that difficult to make. I used this recipe with a few modifications; I ended up using a touch more water than recommended and I didn’t have the patience to rest the dough for a full 20 minutes.

Not keen to roll the wrappers out by hand (impossible with my carpal tunnel issues anyway) I dug my pasta maker out of my cupboard and rolled them out nice and easy (-ish).


Aren’t my wonton wrappers pretty?


l set them aside, and threw some red onion, garlic, ginger, half an aubergine, half a handful of cashew nuts and some yellow pepper into my food processor.



When blitzed, I turned it out into a bowl and threw in some tahini, sesame oil, chinese five spice, salt and loads of fresh coriander.


I mixed the filling up and then spooned it onto my cut wonton wrappers, before sealing the ends with water and squeezing the bits together.


this being my first attempt, the dumplings… erm… varied in size…

Some little and some less little dumplings.

Little and less little dumplings.

I lined the bottom of my steamer with baking paper then steamed the whole lot for 20 minutes (you really just need to steam them until the wrappers turn translucent).


Dinner time! I whizzed together a quick dipping sauce of garlic, ginger, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, chili flakes and some dry white wine to have with the dumplings.


Verdict: Pretty darned good. But this was the first meal this week where I missed animal protein.

What I would do differently: Add pork. All dumplings need pork. It’s just the way it is. I’d also try and be more consistent with the amount of filling per dumpling.

What I would keep the same: I’m super impressed with the wrappers I made from scratch. Also, the dipping sauce is amazing. 

Would I make them again? Probably not.. unless there was some pork in there 🙂 

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Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 4: Challenge!

I just gobbled down a ribbon of smoked trout like a penguin ingesting a sardine whole, then clapping its flippers in appreciative applause. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog post but that was a confession I felt I had to make. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Today I deliberately set out to challenge my loan Airfryer. I felt I had to do something vegetarian, but I don’t believe I’ve ever consumed fried vegetables unless they’re tempura (in which case deep-frying is sort of mandatory), so I settled on chickpea patties.

I’ve made chickpea patties before but I’ve never really been happy with the outcome. Apart from my first attempt which was a total success:


I am good, aren’t I?

I wasn’t going to be completely happy with some healthy, vegan lumps so I decided to top today’s patties with a yoghurt-based sauce (I wanted to use creme fraiche but my local Woolies was all out) and smoked trout ribbons, on a bed on baby lettuce leaves dressed in lemon olive oil and Parmesan, served with grilled prawns.


Let’s start win the patties. I broke out my food processor and whizzed up one shallot, half a green-pepper, and a jalapeño from my garden:



I then drained a can of organic chickpeas and tossed in the contents:


(How gross does the brine the chickpeas were preserved in look?)

I blitzed the whole lot then started rooting around on my cupboards for some semolina to act ad a thickening agent and add texture, when I found this:


I had completely forgotten that I had for some chickpea flour intending to make bhajias. I tossed a load of the flour in and blitzed it again. Chickpea flour has a rather strong flavour so I then added some semolina and regular flour to thicken the mixture. I also added salt, black pepper, garlic, dhania jeera, crushed chillies, dried tarragon and whole coriander seeds:


Once I had mixed up the whole lot I made up the patties. It helps to moisten your hands with some olive oil prior to forming the patties, as this stops the mix from sticking to your hands. I tossed the patties into the Airfryer and baked at 180° for 10 minutes on either side. Remember that you need to bake the insides of the patties as well as the outsides:

While the prawns were cooking, I deveined and cleaned the prawns that I had found in my freezer. I must confess that I started singing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid out of sheer delight at finding the prawns in the “treasure trove” of my freezer. In hindsight, singing a tune from The Little Mermaid while slicing prawns open, ripping out their guts and hacking off their heads was a touch macabre. Perhaps I should have sung “Les poissons” instead.

Digression. I used a simple marinade of olive oil, Tabasco, a splash of lime juice and black pepper:


I’m going to go a bit faster cos I’m really sleepy right now. I took the cooked chickpea patties out, and while they didn’t look particularly appetizing they tasted AMAZING :


They kind of look like cookies, don’t they?

I then slid the prawns into the Airfryer at 200* for 4 minutes before serving:


So, how did it all work out? While the patties were delicious they were dry, and so I feel would benefit from frying in actual oil.

Conversely, prawns were made for Aifrying…or is that the other way round? It was quick, easy, effective, and I can’t imagine any other cooking method would work as well.

And with that I must bid you my adieus; join me tomorrow for the final Airfryer test!

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Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 3 – Nyama, Nyama, Nyama? Nyama!

When I was a kid growing up in Nairobi we used to play this game that was all about meat.

There would be a group of us, and the challenge was to name types of edible meats, and also to sneak in types of meat which were, to our minds, not edible. The game would go something like this:

    caller: Nyama, nyama, nyama, nyama? (“meat, meat, meat, meat”)
    all: Nyama! (“meat!”)
    player 1: Nyama ya nguruwe! (“meat of a pig!”)
    all: Nyama!
    player 2: Nyama ya ng’ombe! (“meat of a cow”)
    all: Nyama!

And this would carry on until someone got confused or repeated a meat type that had already been called, or, as was often the case with me, ran out of Swahili words for animals whose meat commonly ends up on our dinner tables, and called something outrageous like:

    player 52: Nyama ya panya!” (“meat of a mouse!”)

At which point all the other players are meant to remain quiet as calling out “Nyama!” affirms that this is a type of meat which can be eaten. The player who responds and/or the one who dared insinuate that one could eat a mouse would be out, and the game would continue without them.

This game would keep us endlessly entertained. Oh, how easy we were to amuse!

Anyway, the point of all that was to explain that “nyama” means “meat” in kiSwahili (if you hadn’t deduced this by now please stop reading immediately as this is not a blog to be read by intellectually compromised individuals) as well as many other Bantu languages. Also, this was a sort of meaningless, rambling introduction to today’s Airfryer challenge: carne!

Ooooh, a challenge! This feels like Kitchen Stadium! I feel like I should scream something incoherent and claim it’s a saying passed down from my uncle!

I digress. Meat, or specifically in my case, lamb (“nyama ya kondoo”). So I had yet another super busy day (I spent my morning kicking legal butt) and was worn out when it came to cooking time. I was craving red meat so I pulled some lamb chops out of my freezer intending to marinate them simply, airfry, and get my meat fix.

I loathe meat that has been microwave-defrosted so I left the chops out by my sink for about three hours by which stage they were defrosted enough to separate. I then rubbed them with olive oil, salt, garlic & herb spice mix (I almost never use pre-mixed spices which shows just how lazy I was being!), cumin and chopped garlic:


You will note a few things from the photo above:

  • My impeccable style and taste extend even to my choice of apron
  • I should probably eat those bananas
  • I shouldn’t still have the sesame seeds from last nights’s meal out on the counter
  • I’m in the photo!!!!
  • Yes, I had Zizwe and Sharon drop by today! Zizwe gobbled down the last of yesterday’s chicken wings while Sharon had dinner tonight and provided a second opinion on the lamb.


    After marinating I stuck the lamb in the Airfryer and cooked at 180* for 8 minutes, then took the chops out and turned them.


    I then slid them in again, same temperature, same duration.

    And this is where I went wrong: at this point the lamb had cooked for the appropriate duration as per the sticky-on-guide-thingy on the front of the Airfryer, but it didn’t look all glisteny like TV food. So I stuck the chops in again so they’d turn lovely and brown:


    I served the lamb chops with coconut basmati rice:


    If there’s anyone reading this asking, “well, what about vegetables?” in a smug “I’m so healthy!” voice, see those green and yellow bits in the rice? Peas and sweet corn. Vegetables.

    So, the eating. I reeeeeeally loved the flavour of the meat, but that’s because I seasoned it and I’m a really good cook. As my special guest pointed out, though, the meat was really difficult to cut. Whether this was due to my plonking the chops in when they were still partially frozen, or because of my decision to stick them back in for extra cooking so they’d glisten in my blog photos, or even because I just need to invest in a set of steak knives I do not know.

    What I do know, though, is had I pan fried my chops, I would likely have been happier with the end result.

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    Five Days With a Philips Airfryer: Day 2 – Gallus Gallus Domesticus

    I don’t know what it is about my people and chicken. Yeah, I said it – my people. Black people. Brown-skinneded people. Africans. No chicken in Africa is safe, least of all on Christmas Eve night. For all we know there could be a chicken out there which holds the gene for the next evolutionary jump but we’d never know cos the bird’s been eaten. Or will be eaten as soon as the drumsticks get juicy enough. I’ve heard a statistic that holds that out of the top 10 best selling products in South Africa annually, SIX of those are chicken products. And just like Shakira’s hips, statistics don’t lie.

    I decided to add to that stereotype by making up some chicken wings. Now, it’s been a long day at work. I’m exhausted. I didn’t even feel like eating but I had marinated the chicken wings this morning so the hard work was all done.

    Ok, so I marinated the wings in a Korean-inspired marinade of garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of lime juice, a healthy sprinkling of chilli flakes and a dollop of honey:


    I stuck the wings into the basket and sprinkled them with sesame seeds and cornflour mixed with salt (the cornflour is good for crispy skin and adds something that makes the chicken irresistible):


    I stuck them in the Airfryer at 180* for 8 minutes, took them out, dunked them back in the marinade then tossed them back into the basket, sprinkled with the cornflour mix (shook it through a sieve which made it really easy to get a light, even coat), then stuck them in for a further 8 minutes at the same temperature.


    I shook them up one last time then slid them back in for a final 5 minutes at 200*, before serving them up with some naan I happened to find in my fridge:


    I’d had grand ideas of serving them with coriander rice but by the time I got round to cooking that just wasn’t going to happen.

    Verdict: were they as good as proper double-fried Korean chicken wings? In a way, no. They didn’t have that super thin yet almost glutinous skin you get from double frying chicken coated with corn flour.

    But on the other hand, there’s something about the deep fried version that makes me feel uncomfortable and somewhat sick to my stomach, and I didn’t get that with these.

    Add to that the convenience of not having a vat of used oil to deal with afterwards, or a whole load of dishes or stove-side grease splatter to tackle, and I think I’ll go for the airfried version any day!

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