Monday, 22 September 2014

Finally, FINALLY the exams are behind me! I feel so relaxed now that I don't have to permanently think about how long I've got til the next multi-hour mind-bender. I'm doing a little dance in front of my computer, that's how excited I am.

I can't tell you how good it is not to be able to read novels on the train to work, not textbooks, how happy I am that I can make dates with friends not with practice exam papers. I've got the first results back, and things are looking positive, but I should know for sure by the end of the year.

Hopefully in November, I'll find out how I did in the toughest one - a five and a half hour beast. We did get a lunch break mid way through, and I was exhausted. I had the solution in my bag though - a vegan power bar.

I got the recipe idea from another blog, but I can't remember who it was - if any recognises them, let me know and I'll add the link in! Here's how you do it: put a couple of handfuls of oats in a blender with a ripe banana, then stir in a load of fruit, seeds, and nuts (I used almonds, sunflower seed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, glace cherries, sultanas, and cashews) and a bit of tahini, then bake in a medium oven til set.

They must not be the prettiest things in the world, but they pack a huge energy punch and keep you going through a five and a half hour exam. They do pretty much everything apart from giving you the answers. (Man, I got to find a recipe that does that).

Once it was all over, Mr Flicking the Vs helped me celebrate with a load of cake, including this Inspiral raw vanilla berry tart. So pretty in its little glass jar, so darned tasty.

Of course, one of the things I've been most looking forward to is getting back to cooking and blogging on a regular basis. I love spending time in the kitchen, but that went south with the exams. Now I've reemerged back into the world of pots and pans, and I feel like I've almost missed out on the whole wonderful world of summer produce while I've been studying - stone fruit, berries, asparagus and all that good stuff have come and gone while I've been away.

Now, when I wander down to the markets, figs are in season and so super-cheap. I bought two huge bags and smuggled them. Then, I couldn't quite work out what to cook with them. A quick Google later, and I found this - a recipe for roasted kale, avocado, and fig salad. I was a bit skeptical, but then I saw these colours and I fell in love:
The textures were the most pleasant surprise - the crispy kale, the fleshy figs, the creamy avocado were such a beautiful marriage, I made it again the next day. It was the simplest recipe to make too, which won my heart a little more: there's some chopping up of avocado and figs, and roasting the kale after messaging it with olive oil and spices. 

The spices I used were just a big handful of the Gourmet Spice Co's Magic BBQ Dust, which I got in the most recent Vegan Kind box. It's my second, and I've been surprised (in a good way!) and pleased about the interesting selection of things including that magic dust. It made the kale sing. Lovely.

Talking of new discoveries, I gave readymade vegan cheese a new go recently. I tried Violife smoked cheese - here it is with a homemade (!) sourdough loaf:

Like most every other non-nut based vegan cheese I've tried before, I didn't love it. I wanted to, because I've heard lots of good things about it, and it was some of the nicest vegan cheeses I've tried, but it was still just so-so. One slice was just enough. I don't think I'll be buying another packet, but it's good to know there are more vegan cheese options on the market.

Here's another new-old discovery, coming out of the Vegan Kind box. It's another bag of Nothing But freeze dried tastiness. There's some beautiful alchemy that happens when Nothing But freeze dries fruit and veg. Normally I don't love some dried fruits because all that chewing does my head in, but Nothing But stuff is crispy not chewy. The only down side is that I've not seen their products on sale anywhere - anyone got any hot tips?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I didn't want you to think I'd completely lost it with all the cakes in my last post. I've totally not got scurvy, I have been eating my veggies, I promise. Look, here's some pickled carrots I made recently:

I have a soft spot for all pickled veggies - I think it's the Cockney heritage - so any time I can stick some poor plant in some vinegar sugar and water with some spices, and I'm a happy bunny. Here's the recipe for these lovely little carrots - it's a Mexican one, so a great side dish for whenever you're knocking up some fajitas. But it's so heady with bay, pepper and chilli, so I wouldn't just save it for when you're having a fiesta.

And look, there are more carrots here, in this big bowl of age jaga here. I've waxed lyrical about my love of age jaga before - a Japanese take on the traditional British meat and potatoes stew, made with abura-age tofu.

The recipe I have normally uses potatoes, carrots, mange tout, onions and tofu. I decided to swap out mange tout, flown in from thousands of miles away, for the more local broccoli, grown in Lincolnshire, and a few bits of chard, grown on my windowsill.

The broccoli looks a bit washed out, because age jaga is a dish you're encouraged to make one day and reheat and eat the next, to let all the flavours get all cosy.

And look, there are even more carrots in this bowl of miso, and they're all snuggled up with some shiitakes, reckon, broad beans, and okra. There's also a big old heap of kale there, dressed in sesame oil and sesame seeds. I've seen a lot of Japanese recipe that mix sesame oil and spinach, so I thought I'd swap in some kale and see how it worked. Turns out, it works pretty well.

Bonus carbs: scallion steamed buns from my local Chinese market.

See that great big slab of tofu there? Looks like normal tofu right? It's called koyadofu, and it's my new favourite thing. If you've got a Japanese grocer nearby, that's a good place to stock up. Roughly the size of a block of cards and about as hard, it's freeze-dried. You just plop it in some water and it rehydrates.

Think of it as your emergency tofu - you don't need to press it or defrost it or marinate it or bake it - just drop it into your miso soup, let it suck up the nectar, and five minutes later you've got dinner on the table. Wonderful.

With all the studying (nearly done!), I've been making miso a lot and koyadofu is such an easy way to bulk it all up.

My last bulletin from vegetable world is in the form of lovely mushies - the excellently-named trompettes de la mort. I've mentioned them before, but I didn't take a picture of them, so here's what they look like:

When I saw them at the farmers market in all their gothic glory for a dainty price, I took a big bag home. I made up a big batch of chanterelle rites again using this recipe and vegan butter (just not as much as the recipe recommends!) After it was all made up, I divided it into different pots, and froze some so when trompettes get expensive again, I can winkle a little pot out of the freezer and enjoy.

The riettes are so simple to make - just fry the garlic and mushrooms, add some tomato puree, marsala, lemon juice and parsley and blend. It's DELICIOUS and when you cook off the mushrooms, your whole kitchen fills up with an amazing smell.

I can't believe we're half way through September already! That means my exams are almost over and I'll soon be back cooking and blogging like normal. Hooray! It also means Vegan MoFo is half way through - which is half great because it means that all my favourite blogs are publishing new stuff every day, but half bad, because it means we're half way through already - eek! While I couldn't join in this year (cheers, exams!) the lovely Caitlin at the Vegan Word through me a lifeline in the form of her Hungerlust series. Here's my two pennies' worth on vegan travelling, and how I'm still dreaming of the perfect baleada…

Friday, 5 September 2014

What no MoFo? Sadly, I'm not doing the Vegan Month of Food this month due to my ongoing exam preparation hell. Still, I am gorging on all the other wonderful blogs out there and will be back for MoFo next year.

In the meantime, I really have been eating properly, I promise. It's just that everything I've been taking photos seems to involve baked goods. It's not because I've just been stuffing myself with pastry and cake, but more that the everyday stuff I've been cooking tends to be one pot meals, quick to make, quick to eat, so I'm only taking minimum time out to hit the books. Given my food of late has been all about function rather than form, I didn't bother getting the camera out.

Yet, when I see a finely turned out pain au chocolat, I have to reach for the camera to share the baked wonder with you. Like these little beauties - I salute Jus Rol's fine work on this front. You've got love vegan-friendly bake at home croissants that you can pick up in your local supermarket.

And when I saw a new type of vegan friendly ice cream on a recent resupply mission to the Japan Centre, I decided I had to give it a try - meet Yi, a coconut milk based ice cream. It comes in a fair few interesting flavours, including this one - coconut and wasabi ripple.

I can't tell you if the inclusion of wasabi was a good or bad thing, as there wasn't a huge amount of it in there. The result, then, was a nice but unsurprising coconut ice cream. While it's good to see a new vegan ice cream on the market, if you were looking for a tasty coconut milk gelato, I think I'd point you in the direction of ZenZen, whose maple, pecan and banana efforts are rocking my world right now.

It's not all ready-made stuff sweet treats chez Flicking the Vs though - despite the never-ending slog of revision, I have managed to get back into the kitchen to do some cooking of my own (though yeah, I have been letting ZenZen provide a meal or two!).

Andrea of Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking opened my eyes a while back to the possibilities of putting vegetables into cakes and I've taken that particular ball and run with it. Into a big cakey end zone. Repeatedly. First it was sweet potato brownies, and now it's courgette cake loaves.

I discovered this vegan courgette cake recipe not so long ago and now I feel like an evangelist for it. I sort of want to stop people on the street and say, 'dude, did you know that we've been living in a world where this cake exists all this time, and we've only just found it? I know, right? Quick, run home and make one now'.

I made this one with a lime drizzle. It didn't taste overly courgettey (or courgettey at all, in fact) but the strands of zucchini made it really rich and moist. Plus I can get one of my five a day from a slice of cake, so that can only be a good thing. (I know, I know...)

Related exits from my oven of late included some banana muffins. I had a single banana that was on the turn, and after a quick Google, turned up this rather nice recipe for vegan banana nut muffins for two.

I think an oft-overlooked benefit of vegan baking is how scaleable it is. Most omni cake recipes are governed by the number of eggs involved, because hey, who wants to use half an egg? So most recipes tend to make a family sized cake. Vegan baking, because it has not of the grimness and relies on things that are measured by the gramme, can be scaled up or down as you need. In this case, scaled down to make just two muffins - one went to me, one to Mr Flicking the Vs.

The brown goo inside is ready-made vegan salt caramel sauce, a kind gift from a friend.

Just to prove that I haven't only been eating food whose main constituent is sugar, behold, a big plate of soup. I tried to fancy it up for you by drizzling some olive oil on top, but it kind of looks more like a snail's climbed over the top of it!

Still, it tasted amazing, and was mostly made of leftovers so cheap too! I made some carrot and swede mash as a side dish for Sunday lunch had a truck still left once we'd finished our meal. The next day I boiled up some split dried fava beans, added home made stock and garlic, and dumped in the spare mash.

The result was astonishingly good - creamy and comforting. I was surprised at how well it turned out, and had to check it was good all the way through by eating a second bowl. (It was.)

Another non-sweet item that made its way into my kitchen was this bold, beautiful cauliflower. I admit it, I bought it for the colour alone. I love caulis, but this one was calling to me more than the others - what a great look. There were orange and white versions at the market, but I just couldn't say no to this gem.

It made an honourable cauliflower cheese (vegan cheese, obvs) with some cherry tomatoes. It didn't taste any different to standard caulis, but it didn't make me feel like I was eating alien trees for dinner - what's not to love?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's been a little bit longer between posts than normal due to the reappearance of study-based fun. My first set of exam results came through last week and, while they weren't as good as I'd hoped across the board, there was lots to be pleased with and I'm still on track for what I need to do. (All very cryptic, but rest assured, I'll let you know as soon as I can what the masterplan is!)

Any way, after banging on how about much I love homemade stuff now, I got all excited when I saw some vegan convenience food. Forgive me, friends, but you know what it's like, you're at your local healthfood store, you see a tin of tempeh curry and you think, 'wow, cool, I bet that tastes grim, but I'll give it a go in case'.

Can you guess what it tasted like? Yeah, it was a bit grim. I mean, for tinned stuff, it wasn't half bad - there was a lot of nice Thai flavours in there, but you know that weird whiff that you get off tempeh if you don't boil the living bejebus out of it first? There was a lot of that.

To get around the problem, I poured Sriacha onto it until I couldn't taste that dusty tang. To be honest, I poured it on until I couldn't feel my lips, but the effect was the same - I could finish the whole lot. I can't say I enjoyed it though.

Here's how it looked, peppers and okra model's own:

Slightly more successful was a cucumber and tomato salad based on a recipe from Sally Butcher's excellent Veggiestan (there's a full review here, but the short summary is: this is great, I wish it was vegan not just veggie).

I grant you cucumber and tomato salad doesn't sound really exciting - in fact it sounds like the worst kind of English salad, popular up to the 1990s and used to come with feeble, sagging iceberg lettuce. Luckily, as it's a Veggiestan salad, it's far more lively, and there's all sorts of bright tastes in there - coriander and chilli among them.

I served it up with some quesadillas, which was in no way authentic or appropriate, but darn tasty. Incidentally, what's the vegan for quesadillas? Cashewdillas?

I recently signed up to vegan box scheme, The Vegan Kind, and I got my first box the other week. It kind of surprised me - I was expecting basically a big box of all sorts of sweets, but there was all manner of cool stuff in there, including the surprising addition of washing powder. (Not surprising that people would make vegan washing powder, surprising that it would be in the box.)

A similarly interesting inclusion was this bag of Nothing But, a vegetable based snack of freeze dried pepper strips and mange tout. The freeze-drying not only makes it nice and crisp, so it counters my deep and abiding craving for deep-fried maize-based foodstuffs, it also concentrates the flavours, so it's the most peppery pepper and the most mange touty mange tout out there.

Given the theme of this post is turning into the unexpected, here's another random dish that found its way to my table: hearts of palm pies.

I discovered the recipe, torn out of a magazine, in my kitchen recipe stash and decided to bite the bullet. Alas, I can't remember where the recipe came from originally, so I can't point you to it but if you google 'torta de palmito' you should find some similar recipes.

As the name up there hints, it's a Brazilian recipe - hearts of palm, fried onions, and tomatoes (fresh and dried in my case) wrapped up white sauce and encased in some puff pastry.

I made little mini versions in cupcake cases, but I bet a great big pie would be a winner too.

Man, those little pies were good. There weren't any fancy-dan flavours in there, but the gentle, creamy filling meant the pies were a great comforting snack or light lunch with a load of salad on the side.

Here's a quick peek inside, though it doesn't really do it justice:

My last unexpected vegan treat came from my other half, who'd just returned from Berlin. I've not been there for a long time, but it's meant to be one of the most vegan friendly cities in Europe.

During Mr Flicking the Vs soujourn, I asked him to stop by all-vegan supermarket Veganz and have a nosey around. He reported being a bit underwhelmed, saying you get more interesting vegan stuff in a Trader Joe's. He may be right, but I can't help but feeling there's something quite pleasing about going into a supermarket that sells nothing but plant-based wonder. There have been rumours for some time that a Veganz is coming to London, so fingers crossed I can go check it out for myself!

In the meantime, Mr Flicking the Vs brought me back some treats from Veganz - two packets of fruit leather and some Earl Grey rooibos tea. I've never really gone overboard for fruit leather, but the strawberry and raspberry version were really good, and I love the brand name, which translates as something like 'Devil's Work and Angel's Task'.

But the star was that tea. I drink a lot of tea, and had to switch to rooibos to cut back on caffeine. Giving it an Earl Grey spin meant that I got all the flavour of a good brew, but didn't have to worry about the sleep patterns. Result! Now I just have to work out where to get it in England...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Recently, I've been feeling like I'm in an episode of Little House on the Prairie or something - I've suddenly discovered the joy of making all the things I might once have bought.

Back in the pregan days, I tended to purchase far more convenience food - ready-made meals, jars, packets, and all that sort of thing. I was never a convenience queen, but still, I pre-prepared food made far more of an appearance on my shopping list back then compared to today.

So, now I'm a herbivore, I've gone homemade with a vengeance. If it sits still long enough, I'll pickle it, preserve it, can it or compote it.

It's a mania that tends to hit pretty bad in the summer, when there's so many fabulous fruits, vegetables, and herbs in season, they're appearing faster than you can eat them.

Last Christmas, my brother gave me an indoor greenhouse. It's so cool, about one foot by two feet - just big enough to grow some herbs in. It sits next to a sunny windowsill in my kitchen, and the basil I planted inside it grew like topsy.

Alas, after a while, spider mites set on my basil-zilla plant. Eek! I had to harvest what was left, and quick. After that rescue operation, I found myself with a huge bunch of basil - more than I could use in a week.
What I could do with it all? Make pesto, naturally!

I've bought pesto in both my vegan and pregan days, but this was one of the first times I decided to make it myself.

It's not true pesto - I used cashew nuts instead of pine nuts, and obviously there's no dairy in there. It has way more flavour and colour than the ready-packed stuff and, as you can see from the half eaten jar up there, it doesn't last long because it's so darned tasty and versatile. I've used it on roast potatoes, pasta, and soupe au pistou.

Soupe au pistou starts off as pretty much just vegetable soup - onions, courgettes, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, all that sort of good stuff - which hails from the South of France.  Depending on the recipe you see, there's usually beans or pasta in there too.

What turns it from vegetable soup to soupe au pistou is a big mound of a basil puree daubed liberally right in the middle of the bowl.

Sure, it's a bit messy, but I couldn't be harassed to tidy it up, because I just wanted to get it down my throat as soon as I humanly could. Sorry about that. We're still friends, right? Good.

Next from Homemade World is a dish that may be familiar to you, but it's something of a novelty to me and my countrymen: watermelon rind pickles.

Seriously, these do not exist in England. Anywhere. You can't buy them, and I've never seen them served anywhere - I think I only learned they existed through Vegan Soul Kitchen. I don't know why, but I was seized with an overwhelming desire to make them last weekend.

I checked out a couple of recipes, and apart from the initial brining, none of them really seemed to agree with how best to pickle your watermelon rinds. And I had no idea how to go about it, what with never having laid eyes on them before!

I just guessed how to make them based on other pickles I've made - brined them overnight, mixed up some sugar, vinegar, water, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, juniper berries and boiled it all up with the watermelon rinds for 10 or 15 minutes, then left it to cool.

Did I get it anywhere near right?! Given my pickling guide was wallys, I guess not - but in that case, I may have just invented the first Cockney-Southern American fusion dish! Behold its wonder:

Seriously, why didn't you guys tell us how amazing these are before? Why did you keep their beauty to yourselves? I'm going to forgive you this once, but if you've got any other secret pickles of joy you're hiding, you better share them right now!

You know what these pickles go really well with? Cheese!

That's another great thing I've been making at home, using recipes from the wonderful Artisan Vegan Cheese. I've made a few recipes from the book before, and they've always been pretty good, but when making my most recent batch, I put in less nooch than the recipe called for, and it blew all other versions out of the water.

I think dialling down the cheesy nooch taste allowed the fermented cashews to come out more, and gave it a more complex flavour overall. Since discovering this tiny trick, I've been making batch after batch, and they've all been fab!

Here's one pot of cashew mix fermenting its way to cheesy glory:

My favourite thing to do with homemade cheese right now is spread it on oatcakes with mango chutney. Heaven!

You know what else I like on oatcakes? Or, for that matter, bread? Or just a spoon, straight into my mouth? Chanterelle rillettes!

At the farmer's market the other day, I bought some mushrooms I've never tried before, the wonderfully named trompettes de la mort (that's trumpets of death to you and me), also known equally wonderfully as horns of plenty. What gave them such a good name? Their stunning colour - they're jet black.

Having bought a load of them in their inky marvellousness, what should I make with them? After reading up on the horns of plenty, I found out they were a relative of the chanterelle, I thought I should try this recipe for chanterelle rillettes.

The recipe there's not vegan, but to veganise it, the only change you need to make is to swap butter for your favourite plant-based equivalent. I'd also recommend cutting down the amount of butter too thought - there's two sticks in there! I mean TWO STICKS!

So, yeah, don't do that. But do make it, because it's great. It's a really simple pate - just chanterelles (or your trompettes de la mort) and a few things you probably have knocking around your store cupboard (that's assuming you have madeira in your store cupboard - if you don't, marsala, sherry or white wine would work, I reckon).

Just blend some garlic, lemon rind, tomato puree, and a bit of parsley, and job's a good 'un. There's not much in the way of cooking, but the results won't betray that. Plus, you can tell your friends you're chowing down on death's trumpets - what's not to love?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

If I had to pick my favourite season, I'd probably say autumn. There's something about walking through the air with that first nip of cold in it, kicking the fallen leaves as the nights draw in - it makes me a very happy bunny indeed.

But if you asked me what season I like for food, it would be summer all the way. It starts with asparagus, then stone fruit and berries come along, and it's wondrous. As summer progresses, exciting English fruit and veg start cropping up with abundance. And because they're English and in season, that means they're both local and cheap, and that makes them big winners for me.

Which brings me to chard. Lovely, lovely chard.  Like all leafy greens, it's awesome, but weirdly you just can't seem to buy it in supermarkets over here. So when it starts rearing its lovely leafy head in farmers' markets, I start stocking up.

Here's something chardy I made the other week, and completely forgot to post, which is a shame, as it's pretty nice.

After buying a big chardy bunch at the market, I took it home and pondered what to do with it. After much culinary chin stroking, I went for chard and white bean bruschetta in the end.

It's just chard fried off with garlic, with butter bean mash on top. I like butter beans, but I find they can be a bit bland. To try and pep them up a bit, I just put in as much as lemon and olive oil as the beans could take. (Butter bean fans, send me your tips on how to do more with them, they're one of the beans I don't use so often and that feels like a bit of a shame!)

Another vegetable that screams out 'summer!' to me is sweetcorn. Its season is sadly brief, so I have to get as many cobs down my neck as I can before autumn turns up to ruin all my fun.

At the moment, I've been craving Mexican-style corn: corn slathered in mayonnaise that's been mixed with chipotle, lime juice and garlic salt, with some nooch on top.

The next thing that I've been cooking of late is in no way summery, but it's pretty darn good nonetheless.

I'm not quite sure how I arrived at this recipe, but I'm loving it right now: it's doenjang-jigae. It's a great big hotpot flavoured with dashi and Korean fermented soy bean paste, doenjang. Apparently, the original dish has seafood in it, but no. Just no. Why do that to a perfectly nice recipe? If you want a bit of a taste of the sea, use a bit of kombu and everyone's a winner.

Here's the hotpot in action (I think I based it on this recipe.)

It might look underwhelming, but it's one of those gifted dishes that requires almost no human intervention, not many ingredients but still tastes great. And yep, that's more lentils and rice there. Still not got bored of that yet. Today's rice and lentil combo: green lentils and sushi rice. 

Next up, a fruit definitely not in season, but still in my kitchen. In my defence, every few days, my workplace puts out huge bowls of fruit for staff, and we all load up on our fruit. You end up walking away with loads of stuff you don't even like. I got a load of rock hard pears, and took one home for later. 

Only instead of waiting for it to ripen, I had a much better idea. Make jelly.

Yeah, you read that right, jelly. It's not something I make often, as noone seems to be able to agree how much agar agar powder you need for how much liquid. 

I've been thinking about veganising this saffron and pear jelly recipe (jello to you Stateside folks) by Yotam Ottolenghi for a while, and when serendipity gave me a large glass of wine and a hard pear in my fridge, I knew what I had to do.

I made up a one-half recipe using 250mls of wine and a whole pear. I forgot to add the saffron in, but it was still really, really good.

The texture wasn't exactly the same as gelatine-set jello - it was more creamy and less hard-set, but still amazing. And if you're wondering, I used one generous teaspoon of agar agar powder for the 250mls of wine and it worked pretty nicely. Result.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

With my studying having got a bit quieter, I've been able to get back into my kitchen again and start cooking something a little bit more interesting for me.

Like I mentioned last week, I've taken to adding lentils into my rice to give things more fibre and more flavour - brown rice and green lentils are my favourite combination at the moment. There's something that goes off in my brain when the lentils and rice go together, saying 'yeah, this is great!'. Not so long ago, I saw a recipe idea on Green Gourmet Giraffe and knew immediately it was what my belly had been crying out for: teriyaki tofu, rice and kale.

GGG's recipe looked fab, but I had to put some lentils in for good measure. Because, you know, lentils. And mushrooms, because, well, because I didn't know what else to do with them. Johanna of GGG roasted her tofu, which is a much better plan as it does wonderful things to the texture of the tofu, but I was feeling too lazy to wait for the oven to heat up, so I stove-topped the lot.

Can you see the little green bits in the rice that aren't the lentils? That's radish greens, in both their fresh and dehydrated form. I only discovered them recently, and I'm totally in love with them right now. I always used to top and tail my radishes and ditch the greens - what a waste!

I used the furikake recipe from Just Bento for the fresh radish leaves, and to make the dehydrated version, I just tossed some radish greens, soy sauce and a bit of chilli sauce together and then put them in the dehydrator for a few hours until they were sort of leathery.

Sounds disgusting, but tastes amazing. It's great on top of rice, or just generally for spicing up grains that need a bit of pep.

As the weather's been really hot recently (the mercury's been north of 30C at the weekend - yowza!) so there's been a few salads over here.

The first one was a semi-successful attempt to get to grips with chicory. I think the only way I actually like eating that stuff is when it's been braised slowly in stock and served as part of a Sunday roast, when all that bitterness gets caramelised into sweetness.

To try and turn chicory from also-ran to all-star, I thought I'd try making something a bit Thai-style, using chopped chicory, peppers, carrot and spring onion. There's a bit of coriander in there - the culinary equivalent of a fig leaf - but otherwise the salad's naked in the picture.

I did put a dressing on it honest, but I didn't take picture of the dressed version because it looked sort of wrong. It was mix of soy, lime juice, chilli, and peanut butter. It was pretty nice tasting though. I mean, you couldn't really taste the chicory, so in that sense it was both a success and a failure!

Another salad stopover was called for after a particularly vigorous fry-up. Yep, I managed to cook up a breakfast so big and heart-stoppingly bad for me, I couldn't manage lunch. By the time dinner came around, all I wanted to eat was a salad. I had a bag of avocados with no particular home to go to, so I thought I should introduce them to some broccoli and see if they couldn't make a go of it.

Turns out they were a perfect match - broccoli, cherry toms, marcona almonds and basil, all wrapped up in a big avocado dressing (yeah, it's guacamole, but let's pretend its something fancier).

I ate two big bowls of this, it was that good. I'm totally patenting it and selling it to Whole Foods for £5 a tub under the brand name Brocc and Guac.

My favourite way to eat broccoli I think is to roast it. There's something about the way the smokey edge it brings to the broccoli just makes everything better. I thought I'd apply the same logic to other veggies.

Have you ever tried roasting radishes? If not, give it a go. Just put on some oil, some salt and pepper and roast til the skins go a little wrinkly and then enjoy. The taste is totally different to the raw version - the sharp crisp flavor mellows - and it becomes a really nice side dish.

I thought I'd try the same trick with one of the veggies that's always been a bit of a black spot for me. I mean, I've tried to love artichokes, but I just can't. Granted, in the weird light I took this photo in, it looks like they've crawled out of a swamp, but that's not the reason for my lack of artichoke love.

I think it's the effort to taste ratio. I mean, I spent 10 or 15 minutes getting three tiny artichokes ready for the oven, peeling the leaves, chopping the tops off, putting them in lemon water so they didn't decolour, all that jazz. And then, for what? It's a decent vegetable, for sure, but for that work and knife skills, I want wonderful and superb!

Artichoke lovers, help me out here - what am I missing? Show me the path of artichoke righteousness!