Market log: samosas, spanakopita, colourful carrots and a lot of dill (with bonus rabbit video!)

(Nederlandstalige versie)

This is what I lugged home from the market last month:

Haagse Markt, 10 December 2014

Two bunches of ripe bananas, five fennel bulbs, six bunches of dill, a bag of red onions, a bag of carrots in various colours, two heads of broccoli, and two pineapples; all for 7 euros.

Many stalls at The Hague Market sell their vegetables in 1-euro portions and those are the ones I usually go for: it’s easy see which deals are good value, and it’s convenient to pay whole euros in cash. The quantities you end up with are larger than what you’d buy at the supermarket, but I enjoy finding new ways to eat the same vegetables without growing tired of them. I know how to deal with multiple bunches of bananas by now (they’ll end up in baked goods or oatmeal porridge) but I’d never bought six bunches of dill before. I was afraid I’d be eating nothing but dill-flavoured foods for a week, and that’s almost what happened:

Roasted vegetables, dill hummus, dill bread

This was dill bread with dill hummus and roasted vegetables. I really enjoyed both the bread and the hummus, but I’m glad I decided not to add extra dill to the vegetables themselves. Oh, and don’t you love how those purple carrots look?

Roasted purple carrots with dill and sunflower seed dip

These are more of the purple and orange carrots that I roasted with cumin, paprika, en chili powder and served with a dill dip made with sunflower seeds. It’s a pity that the bright purple doesn’t really show in the pictures (they almost look burnt, but that’s dark purple) – I’ll take a better photo soon.

I ended up spending quite a bit of time cleaning and sorting the dill and part of it was already going slimy, so maybe next time it would be better to pay a bit more for one beautiful bunch. On the other hand, I now have a large supply of dill in the freezer and I got a lot of suggestions on how to use it up over at the (Dutch) NVV forum.

Spanakopita Pineapple chutney with lentil samosas

On the left: One of those suggestions was spanakopita, which had been on my cooking list for a while. I looked at a few recipes (including those from Vegan with a Vengeance and The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen) and made my own version using frozen spinach, tofu, onion, garlic, capers, olives, herbs, and lemon juice. A lot of recipes add nutritional yeast to the tofu to imitate feta, but I had just used up the last of mine and I thought the olives fitted in nicely as well. My phyllo pastry always falls apart so when I couldn’t form any more triangles I switched to little ramekins.

On the right: a pineapple chutney (which was a little dark because of the brown sugar) and samosas filled with lentils, potatoes, and yellow carrots. I used the method described here and made a filling with what I had on hand. It takes a bit of time, but I really enjoy making samosas (and eating them).

Other things we made: marbled banana bread from the PPK, a failed banoffee pie, oatmeal porridge with banana, broccoli and potato mash, broccoli soup with dill, popcorn with dill (which was recommended to me by Bianca), fennel salads, and the roasted roots with apple and rosemary from the cookbook River Cottage Veg Every Day! (loved this recipe).

And now for some actual rabbit food: I had a few carrots left over when I went to my parents for the holidays, so I thought I’d bring them along to let our rabbit try them. Then I read this post about a rabbit-friendly Christmas menu on Iris’s blog and we decided that Amina should also get a nicely plated Christmas lunch:

Bunny meal

Thin slices of purple and white carrots, parsley and coriander along the edge, and a small kale leaf with an apple heart in the middle. View the video below (or click here) to see how she liked it. (She was moulting at the time, so that’s why her fur looks a little shabby!)

Amina's Christmas lunch

She didn’t clear her entire plate (she had to get back to hopping around the garden) but I do think she enjoyed having a little taste of everything. :)

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Pumpkin risotto and a savoury galette

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Market haul 29 September, 2014

This was another good market day! I took a while to post these photos, so I hope I remember the prices correctly: I bought two containers of mushrooms for €1.50, a bag of spinach for €1, onions for €1, two heads of broccoli for €1, tomatoes for €1, orange peppers for €1, apples for €1, four baskets of physalis for €1, and two pineapples for €1.

Market haul 6 October, 2014

I went back again the next week and bought nine apples for €1, mini bok choy for €1, four fennel bulbs for €1, two more pineapples for €1, and the cutest little pumpkin for €0.50.

Some of the things we made with this were mushroom pizzas, other pizzas (we really like pizza), broccoli soup, mixed vegetable soups, a bok choy and orange pepper stir-fry with tofu and pineapple, pumpkin risotto, physalis muffins, tomato sauce, oatmeal porridge with apples, apple crumble, fennel salad, and an apple and onion galette.

Pumpkin

I was especially pleased with the pumpkin, which the kind market people let me have for 50 cents because that was all the cash I had left. Don’t you love the colour? I don’t know whether it’s because it was so small or because I’m used to buying butternuts, but I just felt like it was exceptionally orange.

Pumpkin risotto Onion and apple galette
After admiring its colour, I roasted the pumpkin in the oven, blended part of it into a purée and added everything to a risotto along with some mushrooms. I used dried Chinese mushrooms because of their texture and because the soaking water could also go into the risotto along with the vegetable stock. It was a tiny pumpkin but enough for two (we had pan-fried seitan slices on the side).

The photo on the right is a savoury galette filled with apples, onions, and seitan pieces. The apples I bought during my second visit to the market weren’t very good and I really didn’t want to eat them raw. Instead, I cooked them into a thick paste with caramelised onions, herbs, and fennel seeds and baked it inside a whole wheat pie crust. I also added smoky spicy seitan bits so that the sweet flavours weren’t overpowering. Like the risotto, this is real autumn food to me, and I’d definitely make a pie like this again if I ended up with more mealy apples.

It looks like I only got pictures of two things this time! Unfortunately these days most daylight has already disappeared by the time we have dinner, so my photos are mainly of leftovers (hence the tiny plate of risotto). I wonder how other bloggers do this — do you photograph your leftovers during the day as well or do you have your own little photo studio with artificial light? I usually just end up taking much fewer food photos during winter, but I’m curious to know how other people do this.

Thanks for reading, and have a good weekend! <3

Instant mashed potato gnocchi

Gnocchi
It’s been a slow MoFo week for me—I won’t bore you with excuses but I would like to tell you about these gnocchi I made the other day. Gnocchi are one of my favourite foods and as homemade pastas go, they’re pretty easy to make (especially if you don’t mind if they’re all different shapes). While looking for tips on low-budget eating, I came across this post on North South Food with an idea to make them even easier: use instant mashed potatoes. Now, I don’t think I’d ever made instant mash before so I was a little apprehensive about this, but I admit it was convenient not to have to peel and mash the potatoes first (hate peeling things!). I’m still not sold on the flavour, though. Even incorporated into the pasta, I thought it tasted a little off—it kind of reminded me of Pringles? Though I guess if you like Pringles, that may be a good thing!

I’m also not sure that the instant mash necessarily saved me a lot of money in this dish, as I’d just bought a big bag of potatoes on sale and I think the same amount of fresh potatoes would’ve been just as inexpensive. On the other hand, if you can get instant mash on sale you can stock up and it won’t start sprouting as my potatoes inevitably end up doing. In any case, I prefer the flavour of fresh potato gnocchi, but this short-cut definitely makes it easier to make them quickly and without planning ahead.

I served the gnocchi with homemade pesto (which can be reasonably inexpensive if you grow basil in your windowsill—and it’s certainly cheaper than shop-bought pesto) and roasted tomatoes. No picture of the finished dish because when I have a plate of fresh gnocchi in front of me, I want to start eating!

Roasted carrot dogs

Carrot dog
I felt very, very vegan eating this. Replacing sausages with carrots, really? Of course, you can’t compare the two nutritionally or taste-wise or frankly in any way other than their shape, but these carrot dogs were actually pretty satisfying. I kept it simple and roasted some hot dog-sized carrots with olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin, and sea salt, but I’ve seen recipes that use more elaborate methods and marinades so I’d like to try some other variations—I really like the concept. Because carrots are one of the cheapest vegetables, these are easy on your budget, as well: I had two of them on a home-made bun with a little mustard and diced onion and it was less than €0,20. You’d need something on the side to make it a full meal (maybe some lentil or split pea soup for protein) but I also liked them as a snack.

Plum jam and oat thumbprint cookies

Thumbprint cookies
A while ago, I got to taste a few organic plums from my parents’ veg box and then some more from a neighbour’s tree, and I think they may have spoiled me because the plums I bought at the market just didn’t taste very good on their own. I wasn’t too disappointed, though—home-made jam was on my food resolutions list and I figured this was the time to try it! I have no experience with preserving and canning, but I just cooked the fruit with a few tablespoons of sugar and a little lemon juice until it reduced, thickened, and turned a beautiful dark red. The jam is a little tart and just sweet enough, and I’ve really been enjoying it on top of my porridge in the morning.

I know budget eating strictly doesn’t allow for many treats, but I just love baking every now and then and I couldn’t resist using this jam to make a batch of thumbprint cookies. They had rolled oats and brown sugar and cinnamon and I think they’re only about 3 cents per cookie, so that’s not too bad! The jam itself cost around 65 cents for about a jar’s worth, which makes it a little cheaper than supermarket jam and it’s a lot more delicious, in my opinion. I only made a small amount so I didn’t use special jars or bother with boiling and sterilising, but maybe someday I’ll learn about those things as well. For now, I’ll definitely be making more small batches of fruit jam when I find good deals at the market!

Plums

Edit: Because someone asked in the comments (thanks koreanmutt!), I’ve added the recipe for the cookies below. Now, I don’t have an oven thermometer (I know. I know! but I’ve known my oven for a very long time and I feel like we’ve developed an understanding) and ovens run differently so the baking time of these may vary—I’d check on them after ten minutes to see how they’re doing and take them out when they’re starting to brown at the edges.

I adapted the recipe from the PPK’s chocolate chip cookies. Those are my go-to American-style cookies, but I kept making little changes when I wanted something different and ended up with these. I just looked at some other recipes and noticed most people add the jam after baking rather than before, so maybe I’ll try that next time, but I kind of like how the jam melted into the dough here.

Plum jam and oat thumbprint cookies (makes 10-12) (Nederlandse versie)
25 g (2 tablespoons) brown sugar
12 g (1 tablespoon) white sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) sunflower oil
15 ml (1 tablespoon) water (or soya milk if you have it) plus a little more if needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (you can omit these for budgeting purposes!)
50 g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
65 g (1/2 cup) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves
a few tablespoons of jam

Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit) and line an oven tray with baking parchment.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, oil, water, and extracts until more or less emulsified. Add the dry ingredients (not the jam!) and stir to combine. The dough should be pretty thick but not dry; add an additional tablespoon or so of water or soya milk if necessary. Now drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough on the baking sheet (I use a measuring spoon to scoop and shape them) and use your finger or the back of a teaspoon to make little indents in the middle of each cookie. Then fill the wells with jam—a generous teaspoon each.

Bake for about 12 minutes until the edges start to brown and let cool on the baking tray for at least a few minutes before serving.

Homemade vegetable stock

Homemade stock
Here’s a pretty easy budget tip I never put into practice until last week: make your own vegetable stock! I used the broth bag method from the PPK 100 list, which means I just collected all my vegetable scraps and kept them in the freezer until the bag was full and I needed to make room for beans and seitan, then boiled them for a few hours until I was left with a pot of beautiful fresh stock. I mostly used bits of onion, carrot, leek, and a few parsley stems, but I think I’ll add different vegetables and more herbs if I have them next time. I know that stock cubes aren’t very expensive to begin with so this isn’t a huge money saver, but it’s made from things you would otherwise throw away so it’s almost free food!

Roti and curry

Happy second week of VeganMoFo! :) Over the weekend, the weather here has gone from nice and summery to gloomy and cold. Here’s a meal I made last week, when my kitchen was still sunny:
Roti
Roti! Surinamese roti with curry is a popular take-out meal here in the Netherlands. It’s great because there’s often a vegan option, but for some reason I don’t think I’d ever had it, and I’d definitely never made it at home. When Alynda posted about her home-made low-budget version last week, I was inspired and decided to finally give it a try as well. I mostly followed this recipe by Martine from Vegetus (in Dutch) and it was easier than I’d  thought! The curry has onions, garlic, seitan, chickpeas, potatoes, green beans (I used kouseband), tomatoes (I used a tin of peeled ones), and Surinamese masala curry powder. This part of the meal doesn’t require much effort, especially if you use frozen green beans, and it has to simmer for a while so it leaves you with plenty of time to make the bread. The roti is a simple flatbread dough filled with a spiced split pea paste.  It was a little tricky to roll out the dough while keeping the filling sealed inside so some of them had holes in the middle, but overall I’m happy with the results. Together, the whole pan of curry and the 8 flatbreads cost about €2,40. It was pretty filling, though, so we got five servings out of it. I could try to make the meal more budget-friendly by leaving out the seitan and using more legumes (though I liked the extra texture from the seitan), and I’d love to try it with tempeh as well!