There's a lot to love about Italian food, and undoubtedly one of those things is their commitment to carbs. It was Italians after all who invented panzanella, i.e. bread salad, and for this I salute them every summer. Many Italian dishes involve a combination of carbs - pizza Bianca with thin slices of potato, or pasta mollicata which is spaghetti with fried breadcrumbs,
Minestrone traditionally involves almost every form of carb imaginable - pasta, beans, potato and bread - and that might be why it's such a crowd pleaser. It's also a dish that's easily tailored to suit individual tastes and needs. It’s simple, for instance to keep it vegetarian or add meat, and you can swap out the macaroni for gluten free fusilli if needed. I omit potato in this recipe, and add a couple of less traditional touches like parmesan rind and herb oil. I’m sure that with some tinkering, you too can personalise it for yourself.
Why use dried beans instead of canned?
If you’re short on time or forget to soak dried beans in advance (see next paragraph about prepping extra!), you can of course use canned beans. You’ll need 2 cans for this recipe. But there are benefits to using dried. Generally, dried beans deliver a better texture and flavour than canned. You can control the seasoning and saltiness as well as making sure they aren’t overcooked and mushy. Also, they’re cheaper, lighter to lug home and take up less pantry space.
Finally, here’s a tip that we’ve talked about in previous recipes: soak and cook double the amount of cannellini beans required, then freeze them in a well-sealed bag or container. I freeze mine in a ziplock bag in a thin brick shape which makes it both easier to fit in the freezer and makes it a cinch to break apart for a speedier defrosting. Having precooked beans in the freezer is the handiest thing, and Future You will be so thankful.
We love this minestrone. I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as our family does!
So excited were we at the arrival of our new product, Organic Oat Flour, it didn't have a chance to cool its heels before I took some home to put it to delicious use.
And there are so many delicious uses! What I chose to make were these moreish Orange and Poppy Seed Oat Bars.
These Oat Bars come together so quickly and simply, and are an excellent breakfast on the run, a quick refuel with a cup of tea or a nourishing snack popped into a lunch box.
The icing is optional. When making these for breakfast bars I tend to omit the icing, but it's really down to personal preference. You can also reduce the sugar from ⅔ cup to ½ cup if you like.
This week's recipe was new territory for me. Lots of you - vegans and vegetarians in particular- will be familiar with Seitan. It's basically a dense dumpling which is sliced and used as a meat substitute in a variety of ways. You can buy delicious takeaway seitan dishes from local vegan restaurants, and you can also buy it prepped and ready for you to cook at home.
Or…like so many of our vegan customers, you can make it from scratch!
Seitan - or 'wheat meat' - is made almost entirely from vital wheat gluten aka gluten flour, which is simply the protein component of regular wheat flour after the starch is removed. It looks like regular flour, but becomes very sticky and elastic when moisture is added.
To make seitan, water and spices are added to vital wheat gluten, and the mixture is kneaded, shaped and simmered in a pot. Then it's sliced and ready to add to whatever recipe your heart desires, as a meat substitute in stir-fries, casseroles, even roasts.
Think of seitan like tofu. It doesn't have a lot of flavour on its own, but it's a wonderful carrier for other flavours.
Being an omnivore, I haven't attempted to make seitan until now. Recently I discussed all things seitan with one of our regular seitan-cooking customers, Don, and I decided to bite the bullet. Don is vegan and steered me towards his favourite recipe to start me off. His recipe came from the glorious vegan bible of sorts, Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I used their recipe as a springboard, and played around with it a little. I was really pleased with the result, and found the process fun!
So, to any fellow newbies, let's jump in together and go on a seitan adventure.