Slow-cooker Chickpea Curry

Happy December first! I hope all my American readers have survived Thanksgiving and black Friday with full bellies and empty wallets. No matter where you are, I hope you are all out enjoying the crisp air outside or are at least tucked away inside cozy and warm. The dogs and I were out for a good 7 km hike this afternoon and I came in craving warm ginger molasses cookies and stew; I think Winter is coming.

photoWith the weather is slowly getting cooler, we have had a few days of mild flurries that have melted before collecting into any discernible snowfall. The holidays are fast approaching and I don’t have anything decorated, or any presents bought, and as always, minimal holiday cheer.  What I can get down for right this minute is easy-peasy recipes that produce comforting, delicious and spicy meals I can eat all week for lunches.

This first recipe I published on V-Spot was a quick and easy recipe for channa masala using canned chickpeas and a skillet. I love healthy one-pot recipes you can make up in a few minutes and I always wanted to revisit that recipe that started this blog. This time I’ve really improved on an old favorite, making it lazy weekend friendly this time it with a slow-cooker.

Slow Cooker Chickpea CurrySlow-cooker Chickpea Curry

  • 2 cups dried organic chickpeas, washed, sorted and topped with 3 inches of water left in the fridge to soak overnight
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and diced
  • 1 small red/orange pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, peeled trimmed and diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 inch piece if ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp of chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted before veggies or 1 tsp ground while sauteing
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 heaping tbs of PC Tandoori spice; it’s a mild one made mainly of paprika, coriander, ginger, onion and garlic powder and a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 a 5.5oz/75ml can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbs Patak’s Hot Curry paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups of water (1 cup is added to the pan before adding to the crock-pot)

Method

The night before rinse and pick through 2 cups of dried organic chickpeas. Place in a large bowl and cover with about 3 inches of cool water. Store in the fridge overnight. The chickpeas should double in size.

When you are ready to cook in the next day, drain the chickpeas and pour into the ceramic portion of the crock-pot.

Soaked and Drained ChickpeasClean, trim and finely dice a stalk of celery, a medium large onion and a red/orange pepper set aside. Mince garlic and ginger and set aside together.

DicedHeat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. If you are using cumin seeds, add them when the pan comes to temperature and toast until they start to pop. If you are using ground cumin skip this step and add onions and celery to cook for about 3-4 minutes.

Add diced red/orange pepper, chili flakes, cumin and garlic salt, tandoori spice mix and cinnamon and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring continuously for an additional minute.

Lower the heat to medium and stir in 1/2 can of organic tomato paste and curry paste and stir well. Make sure everything is well combined the tomato paste will start to stick to the bottom of pan but continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Spicy SauteeOnce all the vegetables are tender and everything is well incorporated taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt and pepper, remember it should be pretty concentrated as you are using it as your flavour base for the chickpeas.

Chickpeas and Spice PasteScrape as much as you can into the crock-pot with the chickpeas. Return the skillet to the burner and add 1 cup of cool water to get the remaining bits from the pan. Pour the seasoned water into the crock pot with the spice paste and chickpeas and stir until everything is incorporated. Add two more cups of water to the crock pot, cover and turn on high. Cook on high for about 3.5 hours until the chickpeas are tender-firm.

Before Slow- to PerfectionAs the chickpeas cool the sauce will naturally thicken some. Like all curries and stews they are always tastier the next day. Serve over brown rice, or with buttered naan bread.

Spoonfull

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Teanum Otre Primitivo 2011

I’m usually good with hanging on to special wines for special occasions but sometimes you need to treat yourself. I have to be honest, I treated myself to this bad boy about 3 weeks ago; I was just waiting for the right time to review it for you all. Out of all the wines I took home from the Port of Wine Festivals 2013, the Teanum Otre Primitivo was the one I was the most unsure about. It also the only one I ended up purchasing that is not readily available in Halifax.If you are willing/able to get out to Joseph Howe Drive NSLC you may still be able to pick up a bottle but it’s the only location that has any in the HRM. 

When I was sampling the Italian coutry-side (in wine table form), I liked the Northern varietals the most (i.e.Amarones and Valpolecellas) but after one sample too many I was determined to pick up at least one Italian wine from some other region of Italy, hence this Sicilian pick. Most of the the Southern Italian wines I tasted reminded me of French Beaujolais which I’m fine with while eating light fare in the Summer, but it’s not my sip-alone type of wine.

IMG_3186I was so happy when I cracked this beauty, it poured out a deep garnet-coloured wine and when I swirled it I saw how it stuck to the glass. It smells of dried fruit, with a little touch of oak; you could breathe it in all day. Of course, who wants to just sniff the wine, you have to drink it.  It a medium-full bodied wine that is dry but with a surprising syrupy mouth-feel reminiscent of port. It’s almost as if  tart cherries were soaked in syrup and stewed with cloves until perfect. This wine packs a punch at 15% alcohol, but due to its unique texture you don’t notice it.

I’m so glad I gambled on this wine and even gladder (not really a word but I’ll go with it) I kept it to myself, it’s ok to be selfish once in a while. If you get a chance to try this wine out I’d highly recommend it, it would be great with a soft-cheese plate (brie or a mild goat cheese), dried fruits or nuts. If you tackled a mushroom and walnut bolognaise, or hearty eggplant dish it would be a great wine alongside to serve as it’s perfect for Fall.

Green Soup with Maple-Dijon Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Leeks

It’s the end of October; I have no clue who placed me in a time travel machine, but when I find out they are going to have some explaining to do. It seems like just yesterday I was writing my review of the Port of Wines fest. You will be proud I’ve only tucked into one bottle and have my review started, but I wanted to bring you some food posts first so you aren’t too tipsy before the week is over. Just looking out for you.

We’ve been having beautiful Fall weather all of October and today its a rainy mess. I was going to get a new surging needle so I can finish up my dogs and my Halloween costume, I know I’m ridiculous but it’s my favorite holiday. I ended up sleeping in and when I woke up I changed plans and made soup. Saturday I had bought all greens from the market and my plan was to make a super-delicious roasted brussel sprout recipe. Since they are in season I’m finding I’m roasting them one way or the other every weekend; they have yet to find their way into my lunches. After doing some general internet browsing I realized that next to pumpkin, brussel sprout recipes are taking over food blogs mainly as side dishes to your main meal. While my roasted sprouts would make a glorious side, I wanted it to be a centre piece so I made a soup and used them to garnish.

Green Soup with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and LeeksMy farmer’s market finds ended up all in one bowl. Tiny cabbages just roasted with leeks and olive oil, dressed in sweet maple Dijon and baked again until caramelized. A simple soup base is made with leeks and other green vegetables, finished with fresh basil and tahini. What makes it superb it the combo, creamy subtly flavored green soup with sweet and flavorful brussel sprouts and crispy leeks. 

Green Soup with Roasted Brussels and LeeksGreen Soup with Maple Dijon Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Leeks

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and leeks

  • 1 leek; trimmed, washed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint ( 2 cups chopped) of fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed, rinsed and cut in half length-wise
  • 1+1/2 tbs of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

dressing

  • 1 tbs of each smooth Dijon mustard and pure maple syrup

Green Soup

  • 3 leeks; trimmed, washed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 green or yellow pepper cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks of celery, rinsed, trimmed and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 garlic powder
  • 900ml container of organic vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbs tahini paste
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup of fresh and 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • extra tahini for garnish

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Prepare all the vegetables and separate according to the ingredients for each recipes above.

Leeks*Leeks – If you have never cooked with leeks before be aware they harbor dirt and can ruin your soup if they are not properly rinsed. It’s good practice to rinse and cut your leeks then rinse them again. Some sources will say to soak in water for a few minutes to let the grit fall tot he bottom, as leeks will float. Make sure however you choose to wash them that you dry them well afterwards, otherwise they will not caramelize as well when roasting or sauteing.

Leek and Brussel Close-upRoasted Brussels and Leeks

Toss the prepare vegetables in half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use the remaining oil on the cookie sheet/baking dish you plan to use to roast them. Turn the veggies unto the pan and cook for about 10-12 minutes. The leeks should be soft but the brussels should be slightly undercooked and starting to brown.

Mid-RoastMix the dressing (equal parts Dijon and maple syrup) and dress the veggies while warm.

Maple-Dijon DressingReturn them to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes. They should caramelize and cook through but not be mush. The leeks should separate and become crispy strands. Remove from the oven while you finish the soup.

Steamy Dressed Brussels and LeeksGreen Soup

Once you get the brussel sprouts in the oven, heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add all remaining vegetables, sage and salt and pepper and really let them cook down. You want to get a good caramelization on the bottom of the pan which will take about 12-15 minutes. Add stock and bring to a slow boil. Add fresh basil, dried basil garlic powder.

Using a hand blender, blend until completely smooth, add almond milk, tahini and Dijon. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. You don’t want to over season the base of this soup otherwise it will over power the brussel sprouts which should be the star. If it seems a little bland at this stage don’t worry.

Finish

Setting the StageDish out soup, drizzle tahini over the top. Carefully arrange roasted leeks and brussels and serve. Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Port of Wines Festival 2013 – Featuring Italy

Happy Belated World Vegetarian Day! Did you know that October is also Pitbull and GMO Awareness month? I didn’t either, well until just recently. I came to realize that coupled with Halloween, October is on the fast track to being one of my favorite months of the year. If you live in Canada you might also be excited for Thanksgiving, because that is next weekend and like any good food blogger worth their salt, I do love to eat.

IMG_5219Last night I went out with a good friend, we started by trying out a new vegan restaurant in town called enVie. The food, service and atmosphere was all incredible and if you live in Halifax please check it out! Even if you are not vegan/vegetarian you will enjoy the inventive food and classic cocktails. I had a corpse reviver cocktail which was fresh and well-balanced, we spit their charcuterie board and each ended up getting their Rueban with a side kale ceasar, all delicious and really filling.

IMG_5220The main event however was to go see Dan Savage for The Coast‘s 20th year anniversary, which was absolutely amazing. If you ever have the opportunity to see Dan Savage live, do it, and take you friends. Not only is he smart and poignant but he is down right hilarious; my face still hurts from laughing.

IMG_5230This weekend kicks off  Yoga Week (cheap yoga across the city) I’ve been planning a baby shower that is happening this weekend, and before that I’m attending a baseball tournament supper. Breathe, in and out, repeat.

Port of Wines 2013

October is officially for crazy people so I vote to recap the highlights/low-lights of the Port of Wines fest this year which just happened at the end of September. The feature country was Italy (my fav!) which has so many grape varietals made in so many different styles I was in heaven. If you are interested in what wine was available you can see the tasting booklet here (although it may become unavailable in the coming years). You may be able to still get some of this wine around Halifax, I’d ask the NSLC employees what came in from the wine-fest, particularly if they are selling wine that they won’t be getting anymore in.

IMG_5179High-Lights

The wine fest is always well put together and with this being my second year going I felt like I was more than prepared to navigate the crowds, taste what I wanted, pick up what I wanted and have a lovely night. Last year (see my post here) feature country was Chile so I couldn’t eat anything the chefs prepared, although I was happy to munch on veggies, crackers and an assortment of cheeses in between my wine tasting. This year,  due to the feature country or some feedback from the patrons I could actually eat somethings at the hot food tables (flat bread and an amazing mushroom ravioli). Kudos to you chefs for making some awesome Italian food, vegetarian!

If you have not been to the Port of Wine fest before, they organize  the Cunard Center into tables that represent individual countries. The feature country is always at the far end, and it’s usually broken down into regions of the country. The servers (regardless of where they are) are always great. They are friendly, knowledgeable and excited about wine.  In the Northern Italian section this year we were loved up and paraded through the country side trying valpolicella and then offering to compare already beautiful wines with their well-to-do big brothers, amarone. By the time we left northern Italy, I needed a food bread then back to Central and the South to complete our Italian tour.

Some of the wines I loved:

Low-Lights

Now onto things that weren’t great but didn’t ruin the overall experience. The food wasn’t labelled well and since food lines were long it was kind of frustrating. I stood in line for a few minutes because the tables advertised a flat-bread with torched mozzarella  and arancini. While I could eat the flat bread the aracini came with a side of peas cooked with bacon and had bacon in the arancini so I kind of waited for nothing.

I have to say I did a horrible job keeping track of the wines I tasted but I kind of gave up. The first table we went to was Portugal and the representative told us we would have to come back for certain Ports because they over poured the last two shows and only had three bottles left. When I got to France, which was literally the next set of tables, I couldn’t find the wines I wanted to try because the table indicators were mixed up and each server only knew their wines. It made hard to find what I was looking for and also hard to find the wine I just tasted in my book. The theme seemed to continue until we hit Italy which was better organized but really hard to navigate because it was the feature country.

By no fault of the event planners I didn’t even make it to Nova Scotia or Cananda. I had plans too and really wanted to dig into some Sandhill wines but the Italians loved me up with samples, no complaints there.

The award-winning wines were few and far between, it was hard to access them, a lot of them were not there because they seem to have over poured at the previous two tastings and they were completely out at the store even when we arrived before the show to check them out.

IMG_5190Summary and What I Bought

I really did have a great time. I took my mother and a two close friends and we made a really good evening for ourselves. I ended up picking out four bottles to bring home, plus a free presecco. I was really excited to have some special wines for a future occasion however the next morning, I realized most of them were available to buy all year in Nova Scotia. I can look at this two ways,  if I really love them I can get them again, but I really like to buy exclusive wines when I have the chance so I was minor-ly disappointed. Next year I’m going to try to go to the Friday or Saturday afternoon show to try to sample the top picks and hopefully come home with a few. I’m going to follow-up with detailed reviews of these wines later in the year. Stay-tuned.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

Yesterday I thought it would be a great idea to do a post for the last official day of Summer. I decided early in the morning that living for the last day of Summer (preferably outside) would be better than sitting inside the house lamenting about its passing. It was a beautiful weekend with high temperatures and the sun shining brightly. I started making soup and then decided that while my place was still full of light I’d ring in Fall with a soup post.

Saturday was spent at the local farmer’s market and I picked up tons of fresh produce including some gorgeous sweet potatoes. I should have taken a picture or two to share with you but deciding to make the post was so late minute. Basically I prepped all the veggies and started cooking and realized I should have taken pictures. I tried to convince myself this soup wouldn’t be blog-worthy but I was wrong. It turned out fantastic and I had to share.

Sweet Potato Carrot Bisque

Usually bisques have tons of cream and shellfish that produce a extremely flavourful complex and creamy soup. To get the same texture but made vegan and healthier,  I sautéed local onions and celery in olive oil with cumin and cinnamon and added in organic baby carrots and gorgeous sweet potatoes. I simmered it all in organic vegetable broth until everything was tender then whizzed it all up with almond-coconut milk and tahini paste which made it extra smooth and creamy.This spicy sweet, thick and creamy soup is perfect match for the first day of Fall. In case you are like me and watching what you eat you’ll be happy to know that this soup makes four servings at about 205 calories per serving. To me that means I can have my soup and drink wine too. Enjoy!

Smooth and Delicious

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • chili flakes to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups of baby carrots (12 oz/345g)
  • 3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 a small jalapeno, cut into pieces
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 4 cups (1 container) of organic vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond (coconut or soy) milk
  • 1+1/2-2 tbs of tahini paste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

Peel onions and roughly chop. Wash and trim celery and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Heat a 4 quart stock pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, onions and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of chili flakes, cook until the onions begin to brown and the spices start to stick to the bottom. Add in the peeled and washed baby carrots and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add in sweet potatoes, garlic and jalapeno and cover with vegetable stock.

Bring the soup to a boil and cook over medium high heat until the carrots and potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the almond milk and tahini paste and puree using a blender/hand blender until completely smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Dig in