Sebastian Runde shares his seasonal vegan recipe for a warming winter dish, just for love of it.
Love is an incredible motivator, isn’t it? When you’re in love, you can do anything, are almighty, have endless energy and do not compromise. Love is a fantastic starting point for any endeavour. Well, I love food. I love to grow it, love to prepare it, love to feed my friends and I love to philosophise about food. Real food, plant-based food.
Looking at vegetables, fruit, legumes and nuts, I see an incredible beauty and elegance and feel the life-energy only found in fresh foods. The intrinsic energy in a seed will make it sprout even after thousands of years – I am left awestruck by the perfection of nature and can never get used to it.
Preparing food is a celebration of that perfection, a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature. It is a festive process that starts when harvesting food or shopping for food. It is a mindset that will automatically turn you into a conscious consumer; just for the love of it. When you are in love, notions such as imitation, fake, substitute leave an awful taste on the palette and appear frightfully unattractive when juxtaposed to real, fresh and seasonal, don’t they?
Food is our first medicine, not only for the body, but for the whole planet. And it is such a wonderfully simple task to work with, so very basic and yet so paramount: buy fresh, seasonal and locally-produced; no packaging, no long distant hauls. A very simple and basic decision, with tremendous reverberations: it is ecologically sound, insures fair pay, is good for your body & soul, and hey, it is simply so much fun. Feel the impact of your decisions and feel the power of healthy food.
Autumn is the season of plenty, there is so much produce available and the body is craving for savoury foods that are not only nourishing but cuddle the soul as well.
Root vegetables, different types of cabbages, pumpkins and squashes are available in the veg garden, pulses we have dried from the summer harvest and we just came back from the mill with the first freshly pressed olive oil. Many of the dishes I prepare are inspired by Italian cuisine. It is all about fresh and high-quality ingredients, about pure and unspoiled flavours.
One incredibly easy dish with a real oomph is Cavolo Nero (a Tuscan cabbage for which you could substitute Kale in case you do not find it) with Chickpeas. This is a perfectly balanced dish on its own, however you could also serve it with bruschetta or why not steamed potatoes?
As I cook on a wood fire and some of you might do, too, I shall always indicate what type of firewood I use in my recipes.
For four people you’ll need:
- • a bunch of Cavolo Nero/Tuscan cabbage or Kale (ca. 800g)
- • 500g of cooked chickpeas*
- • chili peppers, dried or fresh
- • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
- • 1 large red onion
- • olive oil for cooking (I used last year’s)
- • a drizzle of fresh olive oil for seasoning
- • sea salt
For the fire:
- • pine kindling for a hot flame to stir fry
- • oak or beech to simmer on
1. Prepare the cabbage by tearing the stems and ribs off the leaves.
2. Mince the stems and ribs as fine as possible, I like to use a Mezzaluna, a curved chopping knife.
3. Coarsely chop the soft leaves. Keep the minced stems and leaves separated.
4. Dice the onion finely.
5. Mince the chilli pepper.
6. Heat up your pot with a generous – and I really mean very generous – spurt of olive oil. I like to use earthenware or cast iron casserole dishes as they distribute the heat so evenly.
7. Add the onions and chilli and stir fry for about 5 minutes, then add the minced cabbage stems and stir fry for another 15 minutes. This is a very important part, as it truly brings out all the flavours.
8. Crush the garlic cloves with the broad side of your chopping knife and peel them, then add them to the cabbage stems. Add a pinch of salt, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
9. Taste for salt and spiciness – I personally enjoy feeling a noticeable presence of the chilli pepper.
10. Now add the chickpeas and the cabbage leaves. Mix everything well, cover and let it simmer for about 30 minutes until the leaves are soft. If using kale, the leaves are thinner and will soften faster than the leaves of the Tuscan Cavolo Nero.
11. Serve and drizzle with fresh olive oil.
On the first of November World Vegan Month starts; wouldn’t it be a perfect moment to fall in love?
*Chickpeas need to soak for at least eight hours before cooking them. I would advise you not to use a pressure cooker as it destroys the texture.
Another way of cooking chickpeas, which keeps the outside nice and firm and the inside buttery soft is as follows:
- put the dry chickpeas in a clay pot, covering them with water.
- add a clove of garlic and two leaves of sage
- leave the covered pot on the warm stove top, the embers are sufficient, do not add wood.
Overnight the chickpeas soften at low temperature. This works well for most legumes.