I am delighted to introduce the youngest member of our editorial team, Tasha Gartside, who will be writing a regular monthly ‘column’ about the joys and benefits of Vegetarian food, which will be of great interest for many of our readers who are long standing Vegetarians, and others who are more recent ‘converts’ to the Vegetarian life-style, but all of whom believe that a large part of our health and general well-being is determined by what we eat and how we obtain it, i.e. whether we grow it or buy it.
Whether you are a Vegetarian or not, one has to acknowledge that the agricultural practices of the western world are designed to produce meat in huge quantities using unsustainable methods. This is one of, if not the biggest challenge facing mankind, and one of the most difficult to address, but the vegetarians are already halfway there and the future of our beautiful, but fragile planet depends entirely on sustainability in farming and changing our eating habits.
Neither I nor my wife are Vegetarians, but in recent years we have certainly reduced the amount of meat which we eat, and often prefer dishes on menus which are lighter to eat, and easier to digest than great slabs of meat. If all the meat eaters in the western world cut their consumption by half over the next few years then that would make a massive difference.
So we are heading in the right direction, but I must admit that I still enjoy the pleasures of various meat dishes, but far less often than in the past, because there are now so many good alternatives which are not reliant on unsustainable agricultural practices.
Anyway, we now have the delightful Tasha to guide us through the delights and benefits of a Vegetarian lifestyle, and she is a good advertisement for it.
Finally, if you are a Vegetarian, and have favourite dishes which you are prepared to share with your fellow readers, then please send them to Tasha who can add them to her collection, and we will publish them in The Vintage Magazine.
Squash, Cannellini Bean & Sage Cakes
Squash is probably my favourite vegetable. Roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, there’s nothing else quite like it. I can easily gorge on it all on its own, but it’s so delicious in things – risotto, curry, soup. I’ve been experimenting a bit and recently made these squash cakes, and they are so good! The soft mushy squash blends perfectly with the mashed beans and the fresh sage to create the tastiest patty, which can also be an amazing veggie burger with a warm bun and some hummus and salsa. These cakes are really versatile, which is ideal.
I bought a couple of delicata squashes when I was on holiday in Cornwall, and I have to say they are too yummy. Butternut squash is the only kind you can lay your hands on in UK supermarkets and most greengrocers but this is so silly because there are so many different types of squashes out there. Red kuri, acorn, kabocha, hubbard, calabaza, blue hokkaido pumpkin, spaghetti… there are LOADS. What’s more, most of the year butternut squashes come all the way from Asia, which isn’t good.
But these delicatas were grown locally in Cornwall, on an organic farm, making them the most wonderful little things. When baked, the flesh is sweet, nutty and creamy, and the best thing about them is that you don’t have to peel their skin. It’s wholly edible and you hardly notice it once the squash is cooked. All types of winter squash contain high levels of vitamin A and key antioxidants such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which are anti-inflammatory and can help protect your skin and the rest of your body against free radicals. Cannellini beans not only have the yummiest texture, but they’re also packed with protein and have one of the lowest GI scores (31) of all beans. Low GI foods metabolize slowly, providing steady energy for hours, instead of giving your blood sugar levels a short-lived peak before they plummet (as high GI foods do, such as white bread and anything with refined sugar), which often causes abnormal mood swings and a lack of energy. The sage came straight from my garden, the freshest and best, which, along with sun-dried tomatoes and cayenne pepper, gives these cakes that little bit of zesty flavour.
Makes 5 large squash cakes:
- 2 cups/300g of squash pieces (about 2 small delicata squashes or 1 large butternut squash)
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup/230g of cannellini beans (either 1 tin or your own soaked and cooked beans)
- 3 tablespoons of brown rice flour
- 2 tablespoons of ground almonds
- A small handful of fresh sage leaves (or 2 teaspoons of dried sage)
- 6 sun-dried tomato pieces
- 1 tablespoon of garlic olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- Olive oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Slice your delicata squashes lengthways and scoop out the seedy bit (you can save the seeds and roast them to make a delicious snack) before chopping into approx 1.5inch/4cm cubes. Spread on a baking tray, drizzle with rapeseed oil, stir and toss the pieces so they’re coated evenly and then place them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, chop the onion roughly and push your garlic cloves through a press. Pour a little olive oil into a small pan and place it on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the onion, and then after a minute add the crushed garlic. Stir them around for just a minute or so, making sure they don’t burn, until they’ve softened a little. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
At this point, check your squash pieces and give them a toss so they’re cooking nice and evenly. Next drain your cannellini beans and pat them gently dry with a tea towel. Place half of them in a food processor, saving the rest for later. Along with the beans, add the onion and garlic, brown rice flour, ground almonds, sage, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic oil, cayenne pepper, cumin and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the food processor.
Once the squash has softened and is going golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Then measure out 2 cups/300g worth of the cubes and add them to the food processor as well (if there’s any left over I love to munch them on their own or you can save them to make a delicious salad). Blend the mixture for about a minute, until it’s all come together – if it seems too dense and isn’t blending well add a little water.
Spoon the batter into a large bowl and then add the whole cannellini beans. Mix them gently into the squash mush, making sure they don’t get crushed. Now you’re ready to make the cakes! Scoop out a large handful of the mixture and shape into burger-shaped patties. I found it makes 5 large cakes but if you like them smaller then you can make 7 or 8 with the mix. Once all the squash batter has been used up, pour a little olive oil into a ramekin and smother your hands in it. Then gently rub your hands over each of the cakes, making sure they’re coated all over with just a little oil.
Place the cakes onto a baking tray (I also like to brush oil over the tray to help prevent them from sticking) and then bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes. After 15 minutes carefully turn them over (they might have got a bit stuck to the pan), doing so again at 25 and 35 minutes so they turn a beautiful bronzy brown all over. Remove from the oven, let them cool a little and then serve with salad or some homemade potato wedges (or in a bread bun) and enjoy!
Tasha Gartside is a recent University of St Andrews graduate and food blogger at Bright Young Food, through which she seeks to inspire people to eat truly healthy, wholesome, plant-based food, with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce. Food has a profound effect on both our bodies and wellbeing, with the ability to either improve or impair our health. As well as this, how and where food is grown affects the planet in so many ways, and Bright Young Food aspires to explore this and spread awareness of where the food we eat actually comes from. In short, Tasha is aiming to highlight the benefits of natural food, and how yummy and nutritious it can be.