spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

I’m so sad that long, lazy summer days have passed, yet I’m inexplicably happy to be back to normal life.

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I miss days of kitchen experiments and hours of recipe developing, photographing, and testing (I think we can all infer what the latter entails..), but I’m enjoying learning new things, meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences. Granted, I’m not thrilled about the mounds of homework nor the sentence ‘welcome to high school, this is where your grades start counting!’, but hearing colloquialisms being thrown around in the hallways and the world being back to ‘normal’ is definitely something I take for granted far too much.

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This past week was my first week back at school for over 18 months. For the first time, I felt well enough to go to school, to enjoy it, and I cannot express how happy that makes me. I used to take the simple act of being able to go to school for granted; I know that there are so many of the 7 billion people in the world who don’t have the privilege of education, and it hit me this week that I am so lucky to be one of the ones who do. I am so lucky to attend a top international school, to have lived all over the world, to have food on my plate at every meal. I am so lucky.

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Satisfyingly course, this falafel recipe was the result of many a crumbly, gummy, and simply horrible falafel failures.  A crispy, crunchy outside encases a vibrantly spiced filling of earthy chickpeas, fresh baby spinach, and a streak of the Middle East. Eaten hot with a drizzle of tzatziki lying on a bed of hummus, it’s probably one of the best falafels I have ever eaten. Creamy, cooling and garlicky, the tzatziki brings me back to making it alongside a short Qatari man, laughter lines engraved in the nooks and crannies of his face, telling me to ‘squish! squish!’ the cucumber. These are my favourite types of recipes – ones that aren’t just great, but better than the originals.

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Don’t forget to serve with a healthy dose of ‘call the doctor, I falafel!’

I had to.

spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki

by Alessandra Peters

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

    For the Falafel

    • 4 cups baby spinach, washed
    • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 tbsp tahini
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tbsp potato starch
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking

    For the Tzatziki

    • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled for at least 24 hours
    • 3 tbs lemon juice
    • half an English cucumber, diced
    • a handful each of dill and parsley

    Instructions

    For the Falafel

    1. In a food processor, combine spinach, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt & pepper until well combined.

    2. Add in the potato starch, then blitz again until well combined.

    3. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of the mixture on to a baking tray and put in the fridge for ten minutes.

    4. Pour the olive oil in to a large frying pan and set the heat to medium. Let it heat up, and when the ten minutes have passed, gently flatten the falafel balls with your hand before sliding them in to the hot oil. Watch out!

    5. Cook, four at a time, until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or so or until golden.

    6. Serve hot with tzatziki and hummus if desired! Enjoy!

    For the Tzatziki

    1. Take the can out of the fridge, open it using a can opener, and scoop out the solid white cream from the top. Set aside the clear coconut water to use later (I love mine in smoothies!).

    2. In a bowl, combine the coconut cream, lemon juice, and a good pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    3. In a separate bowl, squash the cucumber with your hands. Keep squashing it until it has released liquid, about 20 seconds, and is quite mushy.

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    watermelon cucumber lime juice (paleo, vegan, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, healthy)

    I’m sure you have all read a load of obligatory summer watermelon posts in the last few months, but this cool, refreshing medley of sweet, juicy watermelon, fresh, slightly tart cucumber and zingy lime really is something else.

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    People often ask me what the best things about being an expat are. Often, I (half) joke ‘the food’. Today, on the day of the new student orientation activities, I realised that there is so much more. Being reunited with unexpected friends from a previous school, buried deep in the memories of sand boxes and the ABC, the familiar pause after the vital ‘so, where are you from?’, and the first conversations with someone who could mean the world to you in just a few short months. Life is bustling, and even though we are all from completely different corners of the globe, we are the same.

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    Because we all love watermelon juice, obviously! Sweet, refreshing watermelon whose ruby-red juices drip down your chin as you frantically stuff it in to your mouth swirled with cool, pastel green cucumber juice and an adventurous, impulsive twist of daring, electric lime juice. Quirky yet familiar, sweet yet zingy, and no harder to throw together than a glass of sickly sweet, preservative-loaded, artificially coloured soda, it’s become my go-to recipe for a bright, refreshing drink. Simply blend, strain, and enjoy!

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    Enjoying it in a fancy glass with a shmancy lime wedge whilst imagining Caribbean beaches doesn’t hurt either…

    watermelon cucumber lime juice

    by Alessandra Peters

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 2)

    • 4 cups diced watermelon
    • 1 cup diced cucumber, peeled
    • juice of 1 lime
    • lime wedges, to serve

    Instructions

    1. Blend together all ingredients except lime wedges in a blender.

    2. Sieve the mixture to get rid of any fruit pulp (I like to use the pulp in smoothies) so that you are left with just the juices.

    3. Serve in a fancy glass with a lime wedge and enjoy!

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    chocolate caramel pie (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free)

    Some things were not meant for sharing. This rich and gooey marriage of soft caramel, light and smooth chocolate mousse, and a sweet dark chocolate pie crust certainly wasn’t.

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    Avocado in chocolate mousse? Refrigerating coconut milk for caramel? Dates and almonds in a pie crust? You wouldn’t be mistaken if you thought summer holiday had fried my brain. Although it has, the weird and wonderful ingredients in this pie somehow manage to come together and create a truly delicious slice of heavenly healthiness. I went there.

    In other news, I’m officially a Daring Baker! Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies!

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    I love how pies like this come together in a matter of minutes with a bit of prep. Remember the days of cutting cold butter into flour and having to wait hours before being able to enjoy the fruits of your labour? Me neither. Simply make my simple caramel sauce and the pie crust before breakfast in the morning and you’ll have pie when you get home. It’s as simple as that; there’s nothing like pie!

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    Chocolate Caramel Pie (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free)

    by Alessandra Peters

    Ingredients (serves 18)

      For the Crust

      • 200g almonds
      • 8 large pitted Medjool dates
      • 50g cacao powder
      • 2 teaspoons water

      For the Caramel

      • 65g cane sugar
      • 1 can coconut milk, chilled overnight (at least 12 hours)

      For the Chocolate Mousse

      • two large avocados
      • 250ml pure maple syrup
      • 150g cacao powder

      Instructions

      For the Crust

      1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until fine and it just holds together. Press into an 8-inch, 20cm fluted tart pan. Chill the base for about 20 minutes.

      For the Caramel

      1. Take out your can of coconut milk and open it. Carefully scoop out the top layer of ‘cream’ into a separate bowl until you are left with coconut water.

      2. Heat the cane sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Don’t stir it – simply shake the pan a bit! Very carefully, remove the pan from the heat and add in the coconut cream teaspoon by teaspoon. Watch out as it will splatter! Add in the coconut until it has all been dissolved, whisking as you go. Bring to a boil again (3-4 minutes) until it thickens slightly. Pour the mixture into a glass jar and let cool, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Place in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.

      For the Chocolate Mousse

      1. Process all the ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth and chocolatey! Taste it, and if it tastes of avocado, add in an additional tablespoon of maple syrup and a tablespoon of cacao powder.

      2. Process again and keep going until it tastes rich, dark, and divine! Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

      To Assemble

      1. Prepare the caramel at least 4 hours in advance and the base about an hour in advance. Take out the pie base, then slather it with the caramel sauce! Top with chocolate ‘mousse’, then serve! You can prepare it up to 2 days in advance. Store in the fridge.

      I topped the pie with a caramel tuile made from the additional sugar I had when I was making the caramel – I simply took a fork, and guided the sugar into a pattern on some greaseproof paper. I let it set for 10 minutes and then garnished my pie with it!

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