Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Pistachio and lots of other tasty things Salad

I started a new job this week and yesterday the whole office took part in a shared lunch. This was no ordinary office shared lunch, my new colleagues are foodies!

A list was left in the office kitchen for everyone to write their contributions on, this way there wouldn’t be too much of the same food, a quick glance showed a huge variety of inventive and exciting dishes that ranged from mini calzones to filo parcels to pumpkin cake. The pressure was on and I was keen to make a good first impression, especially as word had got round about this blog! After a closer inspection of the list I figured a salad would be a good addition but as I say it needed to be impressive. When I got home I was immediately drawn to Veggiestan by Sally Butcher, I knew there would be some interesting salads in there…..I settled on Spinach, Apricot and Bulghar Wheat Salad.

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The following recipe is based loosely on this, it would have been an exact copy but as I decided to try and buy the ingredients from my little local supermarket at 8pm on Tuesday night I had to make a number of adjustments.

I have to say though the finished product was yummy and it all got eaten J

Makes a big sharing portion, probably enough for 10 as a side

Salad Ingredients

2 tins of chickpeas

Apple juice (optional)

1 sachet of lemon and coriander couscous (I only used this because I couldn’t get plain)

1 big or 2 small carrots

1 small bag of spinach

½ red onion

150g dried apricots

1 bunch each of parsley and coriander

75g unslated/shelled pistachios

For the dressing

Olive oil, 1 lime, Cumin, Chilli flakes and Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Drain the chickpeas and put in a saucepan, cover with 50/50 water and apple juice until just covered. Put on a medium heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Drain and cool. This step is probably optional but I like to make sure my chickpeas are really soft and the original recipe calls for the bulghur wheat to be cooked in apple juice.
  2. Roughly chop the apricots, cover in warm water and leave to soften up for about 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare the couscous according to the packet instructions. If you are using plain couscous make up about 110g and you might want to use vegetable stock.
  4. Shred the spinach, finely dice the onion and grate the carrot(s) and throw in a big serving dish or Tupperware (if taking to work). Sprinkle over the nuts.
  5. Chop the herbs and add to the veg and nuts.
  6. Grate the zest of the lime into a jug, add the juice and top up with twice as much oil. Stir in 1 teaspoon each of cumin and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  7. When the chickpeas and couscous are cool add to the bowl/tub. Drain the apricots and add to the mix – give it all a big stir at this point to combine everything.
  8. Finally pour over the dressing (I didn’t use the full amount so add a bit at a time and make a judgement)
  9. Stir again and serve or stick it in the fridge and don’t forget to pick it up on the way to work!

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6 days into veganism; so far so easy

Ok so granted I haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of vegan cooking over the last 5 days but I really thought I’d be finding it much harder than I am.  I have loads to say already but I will just pick out a few of the main things I have experienced so far….

I spent 2 of the first five days hungover and mainly stuffing my face with bagels, peanut butter and crisps but I have constructed some meals and most importantly not felt like I was missing out!

I’d say the hardest moment so far was Sunday evening, usually I’d order a big cheesy pizza to try and dull the realisation that the weekend is over. After sulking for approximately 3 minutes I decided I would have to find a similarly stodgy vegan alternative. Instead, I stuffed my face with a bagel, Pom Bears dipped in houmous and Metcalfe’s Sweet ‘n Salt Popcorn…I felt pretty satisfied with that and better for not spending money on takeaway and consuming a disgusting amount of calories/fat.

Yesterday I popped into Holland & Barrett (I can barely walk past there without heading inside these days) and perused the vegan fridge/freezer section. I think my favourite part of this challenge is discovering new foods that I haven’t eaten before. I came out with VegiDeli’s Gourmet Meat-free Meatballs and Meatless Feast Pizza, Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchilada and Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Country Pies. I had no need for any of them but felt like having some quick and easy meals in my fridge/freezer would be a good idea for the days where I can’t be bothered to think about what I want to eat. I justified the expense by saying to myself ‘it’s better to bulk buy at the start of the month when I still have some money left than wait until the week before pay day’.  Plus I’m not buying the usual cheese and eggs which cost money! I haven’t tried any of them yet (although my mum did used to buy the country pies when I was growing up and they’re delicious) but I’m hoping I will find a new favourite! Reviews to follow….

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I also popped into Tesco – mainly to see what they have to offer a new vegan and partly because I’ve heard so much about Violife Dairy-free Cheese on the vegan-grapevine and supposedly Tesco is the place to find it. There was no sign of the Violife L and I didn’t come across anything that particularly excited me. I might not have been looking hard enough. I have a Sainsburys close to my flat and to my work and have really been impressed with their vegan labelling of own brand products. Tesco don’t do this which makes everything 10x harder! I did however buy a couple of Glorious! SkinnyLicious Soups (2 for £3.50) I got ‘Starry Thai Sky’ flavour which apparently is a pumpkin and coconut cream soup with carrot, coriander, ginger and less than 1% fat! They were marked vegan and this fact alone probably encouraged me to pick them up – take note food companies!

Fancy soup

A highlight of the week so far has been my first vegan chocolate bar! I’m not what you would describe a chocoholic but when I closed a deal at work I was upset to think I wouldn’t get to have my earned dip in the ‘deal bucket’ (literally a bucket filled with chocolate and sweets). I thought I’d have a look anyway….pretty much everything had milk or gelatine EXCEPT a Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar. I’d always thought it was an old-fashioned sort of bar and given it was launched in 1866 I guess it is! Nevertheless I was impressed by my first chocolate experience as a vegan. The dark chocolate had a lovely snap to it and the centre was a bit like a solid Crème Egg filling.

Old Man Chocolate

Like I said I’ve not been hugely inventive with my meals so far. I accidently bought a second pot of houmous when I already had some in the fridge and coupled with falafel, pitta breads, cous cous, olives and salad it has made a number of tasty meals. I’ve had a couple of Innocent Veg Pots and porridge made with almond milk and dried cranberries for breakfast every day.

A few of my meals have looked like this..

A few of my meals have looked like this..

Next week I hope to be a little bit more productive and maybe follow a few recipes…..watch this space