gluten free

Σπιτικό χαρουπόμελο από ολόκληρα χαρούπια - Homemade carob syrup from fresh pods - Vegan in Athens

Homemade carob syrup from fresh pods – sugar free

Autumn for us means figs and dried fruits, apple pies, carobs and homemade caroblates, hot chocolate and favorite books while sitting on the couch in the afternoons, listening to our favorite music and long walks in the countryside. This era is magical just like any other. In the afternoons me and Petra like to walk on the mountain and just before the sunset we reach that point from where we can see all the silver shades of the sea and the sky and the red and orange sunshines that pierce the clouds. We usually sit a bit and enjoy the wonders of nature until my little “bear” starts complaining – it’s time for her dinner – and so we return home.

Σπιτικό χαρουπόμελο από ολόκληρα χαρούπια - Homemade carob syrup from fresh pods - Vegan in Athens
Last week we found some carob trees and I picked a lot of mature carob pods on our way to the mountain. So I decided to make my own carob syrup, as I do every year. The resulting quantity is not great (this time from 3 kg carobs I made about 300 ml dense carob syrup although more juicy carobs may give more) but it is a process that I love! From the previous Saturday I made it, up to now, it’s been a few days that I wanted to write this post, but I didn’t manage it until now because of Moby! In fact, I spend most of my afternoons from Saturday to now, reading the autobiography of Moby, the well-known musician and animal rights activist. I really enjoy his narrative which includes moments from his life as a young and “insignificant” musician in New York, his ideas concerning animals, the life of a vegan in America in the late 80s, personal stories and views and of course the build-up of his career as a musician. When I don’ t read the book, I like to listen to his records. And with music and musical readings, hot cocoa and tea on the sofa, time passed!

Moby
So let’s return to our recipe! I have always loved carobs and usually, when in their season, whenever I find myself under a carob tree with large, chewy, soft pods I make a little stop to chew some. Besides very tasty and filling, carob pods can be used for the preparation of carob powder or flour and carob syrup. For the first time I tried carob syrup in Cyprus when I visited the island before, about thirteen years ago. At that time, we could not find carob products in Greece and of course when I saw how widespread they were there I was impressed. So I bought two bottles of carob syrup, which I wrapped up and carried carefully back home and I was consuming it sparingly. I had no idea then, although I lived in Crete that is full of carobs, how easy it would be to make this dark nectar by myself!

Σπιτικό χαρουπόμελο από ολόκληρα χαρούπια - Homemade carob syrup from fresh pods - Vegan in Athens
A few years later, in Greece, we recognized the value of carobs – rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium – and their products became popular. You can find them in almost any shop selling organic or traditional products. But we learned also how to make the most out of them using our own carobs! I have never made carob powder (I will be very happy to know if one of you has) but I have been making carob syrup for the last seven or eight years, as I enjoy the process that starts from harvesting the ripe fruit. Practically, the carob syrup is produced by simmering the carobs in plenty of water, this way extracting the syrup that they naturally contain. Therefore the secret of the success of the carob syrup is choosing ripe and thick carob beans with a lot of sweet syrup inside them. To make sure that the beans are ripe enough I taste them first. When ready they leave a pleasant sweet taste in the mouth and they have a full and chewy flesh. If their taste is astringent it means that you may need to wait for few weeks till they become fully ripe. In the south of our country, where temperatures are higher, even at the end of August, but most commonly in September, one can find ripe carobs. However, in the northern regions and in the mountains, the ripening process may take a little more!

Ingredients

(for 300-350 ml carob syrup)

  • 2,5 – 3 kg carob pods, whole
  • water

tools

  • a large pot
  • colander
  • cutting tool (I recommend a pruner although it is not a kitchen tool!)

Method

1. Wash carobs and cut them into 1-2cm pieces. To make things easy, since carob pods are hard to cut, I use a pruner I bought the first time I made the recipe and it really is amazing for this job!
2. Put the carob pieces in a big pot and fill it with water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them sit them for at least 12 hours in order to let their juices flow in the water.
3. The next day bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes (not more or the syrup will become astringent) and as soon as they cool down, strain them and transfer the dark liquid to another pot.
4. Boil the liquid for about an hour without a lid, until dense bubbles begin to form on the surface and the liquid reduces. To make sure it’s ready I pour some drops of my syrup on a cold saucer and wait to cool down. When its consistency is like a syrup (eg maple syrup or agave nectar) then it’s ready.
5. Transfer to a bottle or jar and as soon as it cools down seal and keep in a cool place. It lasts for several months.

Σπιτικό χαρουπόμελο από ολόκληρα χαρούπια - Homemade carob syrup from fresh pods - Vegan in Athens

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Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Veganinathens.com

Vegan rocket pesto spaghetti

Rocket or arugula is one of my favorite green leafy vegetables and luckily it is abundant in all the Mediterranean regions as it grows in different soils and areas provided that it gets enough water. What I love in rocket is its spicy taste and its peppery aroma but on top of that this is one of the most nutritious greens -it belongs to the crucifers together with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
All through the year I like to grow my own arugula on pots but my plants seem to love autumn and spring as they grow faster and bigger. This is when we usually make vegan arugula pesto in place of basil pesto. Pesto sauce takes only two minutes to make it and with minimal effort we have a delicious, colorful sauce for our pasta. Making your own pesto is impressively easy: just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Nutritional yeast is totally optional in this recipe, but I like to use it whenever I have some in hand, as it adds a discrete “cheesy” touch.

Vegan arugula pesto spaghetti - Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Vegan in Athens

Ingredients
(5 portions)

500 gr whole wheat spaghetti or your favorite pasta

for the pesto sauce

  • 1 big bunch of arugula
  • ½ cup good quality olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup cashews or sunflower seeds or pine nuts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Vegan arugula pesto spaghetti - Μακαρονάδα με ζυμαρικά ολικής και πέστο ρόκας - Vegan in Athens

Method

  1. Wash thoroughly the rocket and drain. In a food processor add the rocket along with the garlic and liquid ingredients and process for 1 minute at high speed. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process for another minute or until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
  2. In the meantime, cook your favorite pasta  in salted water (we prefer whole wheat spaghetti for this recipe) for 8 minutes or until they become al dente. Strain and rinse with cold running water to keep them from sticking. Put them back in the saucepan, pour over the sauce and mix with two forks. Served immediately!

Note: This sauce comes out less greasy and at the same time much more tasty and aromatic than store-bought. Nutritional yeast, although not necessary, replaces the cheese which is used in the non-vegan version.

When we have a tone of rocket we like to prepare a large amount of pesto and keep it in glass jars in the freezer for quite some time. Just remember to put it out of the freezer a couple of hours before using it.

 

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Super easy hot pepper pickles

Hot peppers are one of the ingredients I use a lot in my kitchen, to give a hot and spicy touch to recipes and make them more interesting. One such recipe that we love to make over and over again and in which the hot peppers are starring is the vegan tyrokafteri, a veganized Greek meze made with vegan, nut cheese and hot peppers. In addition, when fresh, hot peppers are available, I use them instead of dried hot chilis in recipes that traditionally have to be extra hot, such as the well-known baked giant beans (gigantes plaki) with spinach and the result is really special!

Καυτερές πιπεριές τουρσί - Pickled chili peppers - Vegan in Athens

The only problem is that in October the pepper season is coming to an end and so if we want to have hot peppers available during winter, in a form as close to the “fresh” as possible, we can make them pickled. The whole process takes no more than fifteen minutes and the result is invaluable, as pickled hot peppers are going to enhance our culinary creations with color, flavor and aroma. So if you love the hot tastes and your flower pot is filled with colored, hot peppers or you can find them in the farmer’s market, make a couple of jars of hot pepper pickles until the fresh, new ones will come back to season.

 

 

Ingredients

  • 250 g of hot peppers
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 2/3 tbsp salt (40 g)

utensils

1 or 2 sterilized jars with a total capacity of about 1 liter
1 saucepan
disposable gloves

Καυτερές πιπεριές τουρσί - Pickled chili peppers - Vegan in Athens

Method

1. Put gloves and be careful not to touch your face or eyes as long as you work with the peppers!
2. Wash the peppers, remove the stalks and make a 2 cm cut lengthwise on each pepper, so the brine can enter. Put them in one or two jars, cramming them a little. If you want, you can also cut them intο pieces 1-2 cm long.
3. Prepare the brine: In a saucepan, bring the water to boil and dissolve the salt. Turn off the heat, add the vinegar, stir well and pour into the jars. Make sure that the brine covers your peppers.
4. Cover each jar with a lid and keep them in a cool place.

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