Tofu Tom

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My boyfriend, Tom, is probably one of the most typically omnivorous people you could meet. Whilst he embraced both my vegetarianism and veganism with open arms, he has always made it clear that he loves all things meaty. Cue me hiding in my room every time he cooks flesh in our open-plan kitchen. However, something took me by surprise at the start of the month and continues to surprise me as we progress through January. Tom succumbed to my semi-serious pleas to take the Veganuary pledge. And not only that, he has managed to stick to it. So far so good.

Veganuary aims to reduce the harm and suffering caused to animals and our environment by encouraging people world wide to go vegan for the month of January. Tom cites his reasons for doing Veganuary as wanting to shift a few pounds and sees it as a sort of experiment. After all, how much difference can being vegan for a month really make?

11 days in and already he is beginning to look a little leaner and claims that he generally feels better within himself. He’s not doing it half-heartedly either. He’s doing everything from scrutinising food packaging in supermarkets to experimenting with ways in which to veganise his favourite dishes. I was hugely impressed when he cooked up this sticky oriental tofu dish and I feel compelled to share the tasty recipe.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 3)
•2-3 tbsps maple syrup
•40ml soy sauce
•75ml rich hoisin sauce
•1 garlic clove, crushed
•1 red chilli, finely sliced
•10g ginger, peeled and chopped
•300g firm tofu, drained and cut into slices
•spring onion to serve

METHOD
1) Pre-heat the oven to 190c. Mix the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and marinate the tofu for at least one hour.
2) Place the tofu on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove the tofu from the baking tray and add a little water to the remaining marinade to form more of a sauce.

Sprinkle over the spring onion and serve with rice and pak choi. Normally made with pork, this dish provides the perfect balance of sweet and spice.

I’m confident that Tom will persevere with his veganism right up to the 31st and I look forward to sampling more of his culinary experiments!

http://www.veganuary.com

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What’s in the bag…?

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Since making the transition to veganism, Holland & Barrett has become my new favourite shop. I’ve popped into their stores sporadically for vitamins and various herbal remedies in the past but I don’t know why I’ve only just noticed their refrigerated and frozen section! I visited the Moorgate store yesterday and picked up a few treats…

•cereal bars
•vegan flapjack
•Provamel soya yogurts
•vegan sunflower spread
•Cheezly Edam- style cheese

And best of all…

•Booja-Booja hunky punky chocolate ‘ice-cream’!

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Made from just 4 ingredients (water, cocoa powder, agave syrup and cashew nuts), this organic concoction tastes unbelievably sweet and creamy. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that this isn’t the real thing.

And I just loved the back of the carrier bag, almost as much as the contents inside…!

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Vegetarian Breakfast: spicy avocado & halloumi on toasted sourdough w/tasty beans

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A while back, I never would have considered having avocado and halloumi for breakfast. However, after having these as part of the vegetarian breakfast at the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park, I was inspired to make this concoction for breakfast last week.

I bought this delicious sourdough loaf from the Spence Bakery on Stoke Newington Church Street and gently toasted it under the grill.

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I used very soft and ripe avocados (1 makes enough for 2 servings) and mashed a mixed it with a drizzle of olive oil, 2 pinches of chilli flakes and the juice of half a lime.

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I spread half of the mixture on a thick slice of the sourdough, refrigerating the rest for the next day. I lightly grilled a slice of halloumi and placed this on top.

For the beans, I heated a tbsp of olive oil and added half a crushed garlic clove and pinches of cumin, oregano, paprika and cayenne pepper. I then added a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of drained butter beans (cannellini beans would also work well).

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I left this to simmer on a low heat for around 15 mins, regularly tasting and adding more herbs and spices until I was satisfied with the taste. I added half of the beans to my dish and saved the rest for the following day.

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To wash this down, I had one of my boyfriend’s delicious fruit smoothies that he made by blitzing some frozen mixed berries, tinned pineapple and a banana in a blender.

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A great way to start the day and I remained full right up until dinner time…which is very unusual for me and my big appetite!

Next time I’m going to try a vegan alternative, replacing the halloumi with a grilled portobello mushroom!

My Week of Meats

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The 29th of March this year marked 15 years of a vegetarian lifestyle for me. Within that time, I’ve been relatively lucky in terms of not inadvertently consuming meat on too many occasions. 2011 was an exception to this, a year that saw me bite into a ham instead of cheese panini, chicken masala instead of paneer masala and beef foo yung instead of mushroom foo yung. All horrific experiences which I can only attribute to incompetent and irresponsible chefs and/or waiters. Since this time, I’ve tried to be extra cautious and highly specific when placing orders and receiving food in restaurants. However, a few weeks ago I found myself coming into contact with meat on several occasions within a few days of each other…

The first near miss occurred whilst visiting a friend in Kent. We decided to go for a pub roast, only to discover that they didn’t actually provide a vegetarian roast option. Unless I wanted just a plate of vegetables, of course. However there was one option on the menu which advertised itself as being suitable for vegetarians; a spinach and ricotta tortellini in a cream sauce. That sounded pleasant enough but as I was about to tuck in, I discovered a generous scattering of Parmesan cheese all over this supposed vegetarian dish. Now I’m not going to sit here and rant about the lack of vegetarian awareness with regards to hard cheeses as it’s a topic I’ve vented about before (read here). The waiter appeared somewhat perplexed when I explained that my dietary requirements did not permit me to eat Parmesan and seemed surprised when I explained that it contains animal fats. He did eventually bring me out another portion sans parmesan but by this point, my friends had long finished their meals.

A few days later, whilst wandering around Soho, my friend and I decided to try the Vietnamese street food chain, Pho. I ordered the Vietnamese tofu curry and all was going well until I was about to nibble into a piece of tofu, only to discover that it was, in fact, chicken. I immediately informed a passing waitress who was genuinely appalled by this, being a vegetarian herself. She took the plate away and went to investigate the situation. A short while later, the manager brought me out the correct dish and gave me his sincere apologies, explaining that it was an error on the part of a brand new waitress. The meal was deducted from the bill and the manager continued to apologise and check that everything was ok throughout the evening, a service I hadn’t come across before after being served meat in a restaurant. So thank you, Pho.

The final incident in my week of meats was another parmesan polava. I was at Guerrilla Eats Street Food Day at the Camden Brewery and ordered a margarita pizza from the Drum and Baste food stand. Upon opening the pizza box it became clear that the margarita was topped with Parmesan and pesto which, alas, contains Parmesan! A double blow. I returned it to the stand and they did whip me up a new pizza, although somewhat begrudgingly…

Hopefully there will be no further incidents this year or in the future. Or maybe this is just a sign that I should stop dining out so much!

Curry Night

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Still wondering what to cook on this gloomy Saturday afternoon? Tempted to call the local curry house tonight but worried about the impact upon the New Years detox? Why not try one of these heathy, homemade vegetarian curries?

By omitting the meat and using vegetable/olive oil instead of ghee, your saturated fat and calorie intake have been reduced to a minimum. From coconutty curries to rich tomato-based ones, the four recipes include two of my own recipes and two that I’ve acquired from a cookbook and website. All can be served with rice, naan or use quinoa or bulgar wheat if you want to be super healthy. Omit the yogurt to keep the dish dairy-free and vegan friendly.

Happy Saturday!

Spicy Butternut Squash & Courgette Curry

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https://veggiemehappy.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/the-chilli-diaries-2-spicy-butternut-squash-courgette-curry/

Balinese Tempeh Curry

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https://veggiemehappy.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/the-chilli-diaries-1-balinese-tempeh-curry/

Sweet Potato, Chickpea & Spinach Curry

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https://veggiemehappy.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/sweet-potato-chickpea-and-spinach-curry-with-quinoa/

Keralan Coconut Curry

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https://veggiemehappy.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/keralan-coconut-curry-with-classic-yellow-pilaf/

Une journée de la cuisine française

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A day of French cooking.

With a few days off work this week (teacher perks), I’ve mainly been watching ‘Coco Before Chanel’ and I’m currently 38 pages away from completing Hugo’s classic, ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’..Unfortunately, I have the heart-wrenching feeling that this isn’t going to end quite like the Disney version!

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With a bit of a French theme occurring, I decided to devote a day to cooking several recipes from my new French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier.

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The beauty of this cookbook is that it’s made me think of ingredients that I’d never normally use together and it has definitely broadened my culinary horizons. It’s even led me to a spot of baking, something I don’t normally do.
I set myself the challenge of making a mammoth 6 dishes and with my extra long shopping list, I set off for the supermarket. A couple of hours (and a dented bank balance) later, I returned with all of my weird and wonderful ingredients and got to work.

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I’ve featured the page numbers by each dish, should you decide to purchase this lovely vegetarian cookbook.

Caviar d’aubergine aux olives noires (aubergine and black olive caviar, p60)

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Used as an appetiser and served on crackers, this similarly resembled an olive tapenade. Having never sampled real caviar, I’ve little to compare this to but the distinctive flavours and smooth texture made this surprisingly more-ish!

Champignons farcis aux prunes (mushrooms stuffed with plums, p128)

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Stuffed mushrooms make a classic starter to any meal which is why I chose to make these. After my initial apprehension at using fruit in a savoury dish, I was impressed with how well the plums complimented the mushrooms.

Cake au potiron et semoule de mais (savoury pumpkin and cornmeal quick bread, p179)

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With Halloween looming, it only seemed appropriate to make a pumpkin-based dish! This was my first attempt at making any form of bread and I was rather self-satisfied. I served this with the main dish but it also tasted delicious slightly warm with some soft Brie on top.

Pates rose vif (shocking pink pasta, p115)

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The quirkiest of all dishes, this linguine dish was made bright pink by the beetroot, garlic, cream and cumin sauce. Weird but wonderful!

Gratin de choufleur au curcuma et noisettes (cauliflower gratin with tumeric and hazelnuts, p171)

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A rich and creamy side-dish.

Poire et le gâteau aux amandes (pear and almond cake, p143)

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A pear and chestnut cake recipe in the cookbook, I made some amendments as chestnut flour is so hard to find. I used buckwheat flour instead, mixing crushed almonds into the batter, as well as placing some flaked almonds on top. Lovely with a dollop of clotted cream!

Now to say this was a French feast would be an understatement; my boyfriend and I will be feasting off the remnants for days to come! Although this was a little pricey and required A LOT of hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed my French-themed cooking day. My ‘French Market Cookbook’ turned out to be a brilliant birthday gift. Merci beaucoup!

Birthday Bloggin’

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After launching a vegetarian cooking blog back in July and rambling on about it to anyone who will listen, it was only inevitable that I’d end up with some inspirational blogging material as birthday gifts!

From my good friend Lucy, I received a gift subscription for Cook Vegetarian magazine. I can’t wait to peruse all the tried and tested recipes, as well as reading all the veggie-related articles. This will definitely keep me busy in the kitchen over the next few months!

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From my work colleagues, I received The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier of chocolateandzucchini.com

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I was particularly intrigued by this cookbook as I found dining out in France rather difficult as a vegetarian and I therefore never really experiment with French-inspired food when cooking. This book has categorised its recipes by seasons and many recipes consist of ingredients that I’d never considered using together. I can’t wait to make the aubergine and fresh herb tabbouleh (p69), Corsican bell pepper stew (p85), mushroom broth with Parisisn gnocchi (p116), as well as the lentil croquettes (p176)!

Finally, from my boyfriend I received television’s Anjum Anand’s Indian Vegetarian Feast. Although I’ve yet to visit India, I adore authentic Indian cuisine and was able to sample some in Singapore’s Little India whilst on my most recent holiday. I love how much of Indian cuisine is completely vegetarian and this book consists of many simple, yet creative recipes from breakfast time to dinner time.

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Yesterday I got the ball rolling and made the Keralan coconut curry, accompanied by classic yellow pilaf-recipe to follow later this week.

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I often cook different types of veggie curries and always tell myself that next time I will make my own paneer and naan bread. I never do but this book makes it all look so simple! So I’ll definitely need to give it a try.

What a great birthday with some lovely gifts from some lovely people. This will keep me busy with blogging material…until Christmas at least!

Vegan Sunday Roast

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Lentil and cashew nut roast with curly kale, green beans, roasted carrots, sweet potato roasties and a porcini mushroom and red wine gravy.

The rain is pouring down, the nights are drawing in. One thing is for sure…Sunday roast season is back with a bang! Being vegetarian, I’ve never found making a veggie-friendly roast to be a particularly difficult task. So today I thought I’d set myself the challenge of making a completely vegan roast dinner for the best friend and boyfriend, my meat-eating companions.

I used the porcini mushroom and red wine gravy recipe from a vegetarian recipe website. I only deviated slightly from this recipe by choosing to use marsala instead of sherry. The recipe advised to prepare the gravy the day before, in order to let the flavours settle. As I only discovered this recipe this morning, time was not quite on my side so I ensured that this was the first thing I prepared and left it aside whilst I cooked everything else.

INGREDIENTS (4 portions)
½ packet (approximately 7-10g) porcini or mixed dried mushrooms
300ml/generous10 fl oz boiling water
2 tbsp medium-dark miso – soya bean paste, available from Oriental/health food shops or large branches of Waitrose or Sainsbury
2 tbsp cold water
4 shallots or one small red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp cornflour mixed with 4 tbsp cold water to a smooth paste
450ml16floz hot vegan stock
240ml/generous 8fl oz red wine – Co-op labels its own range where suitable or check this for other vegan wines
2 tbsp sherry or marsala
½ tsp basil
½ tsp tarragon
1 large bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD
1. Boil the kettle. Place dried mushrooms in a jug or bowl, pour boiling water on them, cover and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, sauté shallots/onions in oil until translucent.
3. Add the stock then add cornflour paste and stir in well.
4. Add wine, marsala and herbs. Bring to boil, stirring thoroughly to ensure that no lumps form.
5. Lower heat and simmer until sauce is thickened, stirring often.
6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix miso with the cold water to a smooth paste. Set aside.
7. Add porcini mushrooms and their soaking water to gravy– omitting gritty liquid at bottom!
8. If gravy too thick, add a little more water/stock; if too thin, make a paste from 1 tsp cornflour and a splash of water – bring to boil again. Add more if necessary.
9. Blend gravy to the texture you prefer – if using a goblet blender, return gravy to pan. If using a stick blender you can whizz it directly in the gravy pan.
10. Stir in miso paste but don’t allow gravy to boil.
11. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary and set aside until ready to serve.

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I then set to work on my nut roast. This recipe is taken from All Recipes website. I omitted the egg and added a drop of soy milk instead to bind, in order to keep the dish vegan.

INGREDIENTS
200g red split lentils
450ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted cashew nuts
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g wholemeal breadcrumbs
A dash of soy milk

METHOD
1) Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Drain, then tip into a saucepan. Add the stock and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft and pulpy and the stock has been absorbed. Stir once or twice towards the end of to prevent the lentils sticking. Discard the bay leaf.
2) While the lentils are cooking, put the cashew nuts in a non-stick frying pan and toast over a moderate heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Line the bottom of a 1.4 litre loaf tin with a piece of greaseproof paper.
3) Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the onion over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the leeks, red pepper, mushrooms and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in the lemon juice. Blitz these ingredients, along with the nuts, in a food processor, forming a thick paste.
6) Mix the paste with the lentils, soy milk and bread crumbs then spoon into a loaf tin, levelling the top and cover with foil.
7) Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and cutting into thick slices.

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Roasted carrots
1) Wash carrots, leave skin on and cut into length-way chunks. Boil for 5 minutes, drain then place on a baking tray.
2) Add a sprinkling of caster sugar, dash of red wine then roast in the oven for 45 minutes, turning occasionally.

Sweet potato roasties
1) Wash, leave skin on and cut into large chunks. Place on a baking tray with adequate spacing and sparingly cover in olive oil, add a sprinkle of thyme and nutmeg, leaving to cook in the oven for 15 minutes.
2) Turn over each chunk then put back in the oven for 10 minutes- perfect!

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Boil the green beans for 10 minutes and sizzle the kale gently in oil for 10 minutes. Re-heat the gravy and serve all the components together on a plate.

Flavoursome and healthy! Who needs meat?!

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Ode to a sweet potato chip

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I’ve always thought of ‘chips’ as quite a dirty word. When I hear it, I conjure up images of a hectic McDonalds scene or a big, greasy bag of newspaper. Chips were always something I tried avoiding eating too often from the age of 15; I was plagued with a fear of obesity and/or acne. To cut it short, chips are bad for you, end of story.

In recent years, I’ve used sweet potatoes on an increasingly frequent basis. Curries, casseroles, salads. Given their health benefits, I’m surprised that everyone hasn’t completely traded in starchy white potatoes for them. Sweet potatoes include vitamin C, D and iron; something which many vegetarians unknowingly lack in their diet. For further reading on the health benefits of sweet potatoes, visit http://www.care2.com/greenliving/9-reasons-to-love-sweet-potatoes.html.

Given their healthiness and versatility, it only makes sense to use them to make chips. Now this is something I’ve fought many a losing battle with. How difficult can it be to produce the perfect sweet potato chip?! I thought that drowning them in olive oil was the key to forming the crispy outer layer. Sadly, all that left me with was a soggy mess. Still, I persevered and I can now confidently say that I know how to make the perfect sweet potato chips!

Now I would love to say that this is an achievement I acquired through my own hard graft. But that would be a lie. I took the tips from the Instructables website. Nevertheless, a major part of my culinary habits have been revolutionised and I’ll never look back. Some of the key tips I picked up from this website include:-
• leaving the skin on- after all, that’s where most of the nourishment is contained.
• Use MINIMAL oil. This will stop the chips from turning soggy.
• Spreading out the chips on a baking tray will allow them adequate space to cook beautifully.
• Even a small sprinkling of salt and black pepper will make a world of difference to the flavour.
• Pre-heat the oven to 200c. Leave the chips in for 15 minutes then flip them over and cook for another 10 minutes.

The beauty of these babies is that you can add them to so many meals! I find them particularly useful to create a bit of a ‘pub grub’ vibe at home. Some recent dishes where my sweet potato chips have acted as an accompaniment include a homemade mushroom stroganoff and salad…

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And that classic; portobello mushroom and halloumi ‘burgers’.

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So what are you waiting for?! Switch to sweet potatoes today; your health will thank you for it!

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The problem with pesto…

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Basil is one of my favourite herbs so it comes as no surprise that I’ve always been quite partial to a spot of fresh pesto with some pasta or bread. However, it was several years into my vegetarianism that I realised that pesto contained Parmesan and if course, Parmesan contains calf rennet. Not so vegetarian. Most DECENT restaurants are quite astute to this and will provide pesto-based dishes with a vegetarian cheese, whilst others probably wouldn’t even realise that Parmesan is not a veggie’s best friend. I’ve tried making my own pesto many a time by omitting the cheese but what I normally end up with can only be described as a soggy, oily mess. However, tonight I think I finally cracked it..

In my post, Vegetarians and Hard Cheese, I talked about a batch of vegetarian style Parmesan that I bought from Waitrose so used this to form part of the recipe. After initially blitzing the basil, oil, garlic and pine nuts, the mixture tasted somewhat peculiar. It was only when I mixed in the grated cheese that I realised what an important ingredient the cheese is when making pesto. I kept adding more and more cheese until I had it just the way I wanted it!

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
•25g basil leaves
•1/2 tbs pine nuts
•3tbs olive oil
•1/2 clove crushed garlic
•drop of lemon juice
•A pinch of black pepper
•40g finely grated vegetarian hard cheese

METHOD
1) Mix the basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts in a blender to form a rich, thick paste.
2) Stir in the cheese, lemon juice and black pepper. Done.

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I served this with some whole wheat conchiglie pasta from The Shoreditch Grocery and a few rocket leaves, giving it a slightly healthier feel!

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