Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Wild Mushroom Pie

I love autumn. The days are still warm enough to be outside pottering around the garden, the nights are getting quite chilly and towards the end of April we start lighting our slow combustion fire. It's cosy and pleasant. And there are mushrooms. We had so much rain at the beginning of autumn the mushrooms have been popping up ever since. ***Word of warning here folks - if you don't know which mushrooms are safe to eat don't go collecting wild mushrooms*** Here where we live in the upper Blue Mountains saffron milkcaps abound for easy picking if you know where to look. Lucky for us a great deal can just be found in our own garden under the pine trees and azaleas where they flourish and pop up reliably every year. So I took to making a delcious wild mushroom pie.If you don't have wild mushrooms, just get a nice of full flavour mushrooms from the market or grocer.

shortcrust pastry for bottom (I used two sheets of store bought because I was lazy)
puff pastry for the top (1 sheet)
3 cups sliced wild mushrooms (or mixed bought doesn't matter!)
1 stick of celery diced
1 carrot diced
2 bay leaves
handful sage leaves, shredded
1 brown onion diced
1 clove garlic
1 small bunch fresh thyme, chopped
cracked black pepper to taste (few twists will do)
2 cups porcini mushroom stock (porcini mushrooms left to soak in hot water) OR beef style stock powder
1 tablespoon of plain flour
2 tablepoons butter or vegan margarine
vegetable oil for frying plus  butter (or vegan margarine)

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat and  add a tablespoon of butter. Add the onion, carrot, an celery, and saute until soft.Add the garlic, bay leaves,sage, thyme, and cracked pepper.
2. Add the sliced mushrooms, and a little more butter if needed, cooking gently on low heat until the mushrooms soften and wilt down.
3.In a saucepan melt two tablespoons of butter on low heat and whisk in the flour. Keep stirring for a few minutes to cook out the flour (or your pie will taste like batter!). Slowly begin adding in the hot stock, a tablespoon at a time and keep whisking to prevent lumps as it begins to thicken.
4. add this sauce to the mushroom mix and simmer on a ow heat for about 10- 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, and set aside to cool. (Tip: Making this the day ahead and leaving to be completely cool also enhances the flavour for the next day).
5. Grease a 20 cm pie tin and line with shortcrust pastry. Blind bake for 10 minutes and then remove.
Spread out the mushroom filling into the case, and top with puff pastry, pressing firmly all the way around (I do a little roll around the edge to ensure it stays put).
6. Bake in a 180C preheated oven for approximately 30minutes or until the top is puffy and lightly golden.
7. Let the pie rest for a few minutes when out of the oven before slicing and serving.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Cherry Plum & Lavender Jam

I remember learning how to make jam by watching my mum as a child. I clearly recall one year my Dad had picked all the ripe plums off our enormous tree and brought them to her to make jam. It was 40 degrees in the middle of a Victorian heatwave and the last thing Mum wanted to do was hover over a hot stove. Being  a Pom (that's a Brit for those of you that don't know) she always wilted in the heat, so she popped on her swimmers and that's how she made the jam. I can still picture her in her red costume standing in our kitchen,making it.

My mum passed away in November, and I flew down to Tasmania for a week to keep my Dad company over Christmas. We went to visit Bridestowe Lavender Farm and I picked up some culinary lavender as I hadn't got around to replacing my lavender bushes yet. When the cherry plums were ripe last week I decided to pair them together to make jam - lavender adds a really lovely floral fragrance and taste to sweets, don't be afraid to try it! It is important you use lavender that has not been sprayed, so either grow some of your on or purchase the Culinary kind.

1 kilo cherry plums, pitted
1 kilo caster sugar
2 lemons
1 tablespoon lavender

Sterilise your jars and place a couple of teaplates in the fridge before you begin.

1. Place the plums and sugar in  a squeaky clean heavy based saucepan. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the pan. Add the lemon peel to the mixture (this helps the jam set, you will remove it later).

2. Stir the pan well, and bring the mixture to a boil, then quickly turn to a simmer, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the lavender and keep cooking until the fruit is very soft, and falling apart.

3.You can use a slotted spoon to skim scum off the top for a clear jam. To test if the jam is set take one of your plates from the fridge and drop a teaspoon of jam onto it. Give it  a minute to cool, and tip the plate to the side. If it is set the jam shouldn't run down the plate but stay in a blob.

4. Remove the lemon peel, and pour the hot jam into your sterilised jars, pop the lid on and allow to cool. To help the lids seal better, once the lid is on turn the jar upside down for five minutes, and then right side up, it heats the lid and as it cools brings it down. Any opened jam should be stored in the fridge, but in a cool dark cupboard unopened the jam should keep for at least six months.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Black Tahini Baba Ganouj

Dips are definitely a comfort food - but depending on what kind they can definitely be good for you too in moderation! One of my favourites is baba ganouj, I could eat a bucket of it. Tahini - an important ingredient in baba ganouj is  a great source of protein, calcium, B1, and fibre, as well as many other minerals such as copper and magnesium. You don't have to use black tahini, however use unhulled tahini if you can - it contains a much higher amount of the vitamins and minerals you are after!

1 large eggplant
2 Tablespooons black tahini
2 tablespoons unhulled tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
juice of 1 large lemon (approx 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (extra for garnish)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch salt
1 /2 cup chopped parsley (extra for garnish)
EVOO for drizzling

1.Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the eggplant, whole, on a baking tray and bake for 20 -30 minutes, until soft.
2.To get the smoky flavour you can either use a BBQ hotplate to finish it off, or if you have a gas stove using tongs turn the eggplant over the flame frequently until the skin blackens. Allow to cool.
3.Cut the eggplant inot large chunks, and place into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until smooth and well combined.
4. Put into a bowl or jar, sprinkle some extra paprika and parsley over the top, and drizzle with a little oil.

Serve with some good bread or crackers, on its own or part of a platter!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Comfort Food: Pulled Mushroom Burger with Wasabi Cashew Sauce

It has been quite a while since I have done a post. If you don't want the boring details skip to the recipe. It's great, I promise! I'll be doing a series on comfort foods over the next few weeks, and not all of them are the "give me something deep fat fried and smothered in chocolate" variety although those do have their place occasionally. I'm talking about comfort foods that nourish the body as well as the spirit. If you're in Australia remember that ad for Uncle Toby's oats where the kid tucks into a bowl of warm porridge and eating it is "like having a hug"? That's what I mean. Food that gives your body a hug.

To put this into perspective, life has been extraordinarily busy and somehow I lost time to do things for myself. I do a lot of volunteer work which is quite demanding, and this coupled with a Series  of Unfortunate Events  has left me a frazzled burnt out human. Word of warning here folks: self care is not optional. How can we take care of others if we don't take care of ourselves? No matter how demanding the world is, if you don't take time for yourself and recharge, you won't be a help to anyone! You know when you hop on a plane and the flight attendant gives you the instructions for emergencies? The first thing you do is put your oxygen mask on before you assist anyone else. That's what I need to do, and right now that oxygen mask is taking time to do the things I love.

So, about this burger....

Oyster mushrooms when cooked take on a silky texture like slow cooked pulled meat. It's been a very long time since I had meat, but I think it's a fair approximation. Cooked with ginger, garlic, and coriander root it sucks up the flavours to make a great vego version of Vietnamese banh mi thit. With a crunchy slaw it's a pretty healthy looking roll. Admittedly wasabi isn't Vietnamese but with cashews it makes a very tangy dressing. The Beloved really liked them and wants them again, so give them a bash and enjoy!

Makes 6 rolls

Tip: Make everything ahead but slicing up the apple, cover and store in the fridge to make up a snappy dinner or lunch!

6 crusty rolls

For the Filling:
300g oyster mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 thumb piece ginger
5cm piece of lemongrass
1 bunch of coriander (including root and stem)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 sliced Lebanese cucumber
1 shredded apple
1/2 cup sliced spring onions (I'm talking about the long thin variety which some people call shallots).
rice wine vinegar
vegetable oil

For the Dressing:
125g raw cashews
2 tsp veg stock powder (I used massel)
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tube wasabi (used in increments to get the desired heat)


1. Put the cashews, veg stock, and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it has reached a boil turn down and simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes, then set aside to cool.

2. While the cashews are cooking, cut off the leafy part of the coriander and set aside. Finely chop the roots and stems and put into a small bowl. Crush the garlic,  zest the lemongrass and ginger, and add to coriander stem with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to make a paste.

3.In a deep frypan or wok fry the spice paste on low heat until fragrant. Add the spring onions, and then add the oyster mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes more.

4. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan  and put the lid on, turning the heat down to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove the lid from the mushroom mixture and keep cooking until all the liquid has evaporated (if it hasn't already). Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

6. Shred the cabbage, carrot, chop the coriander leaves roughly and toss together ina bowl with a little rice wine vinegar. Shred apple and slice the cucumber and put into a bowl and toss two tablespoons rice wine vinegar over it, set aside.

7. Blitz the cashews with the stock in a blender until thick and smooth (You can use a stick blender but it will take longer). If it is too thick just add a little more water. Blend the wasabi a little at a time until you reach the "heat" you're after. I put a whole 45g tube in, but you might not want that much!

8. Shred the cooked mushrooms with two forks to pull them apart, it will look a lot like shredded meat.

9. Cut your buns in half and spread a thin layer of margarine if desired. Put a layer of slaw, and then a a couple of spoons of the mushroom, topping with a generous dollop of wasabi cashew sauce. Serve on its own or with chips. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Vegan MoFo: Crying Onion Tart

Well, I got lost a bit the last week as we took a much needed short break without the foster hounds, and arranging everything for a just a few days off seemed to be a titanic task.  My planned post for today is somewhat interrupted by the Aussie politics of the last 24 hours. How could I possibly resist a bon voyage post to outgoing PM Tony Abbott when two years ago I posted about his election?

So I spent the afternoon in tears. Not because I'm unhappy about Tony being given the flick by his own party, but because I spent some of it slicing onions. How fitting for me to do a tribute to Tony in the kitchen in the form of an onion tart. I can't see he can complain as I'm only doing my wifely duty poised over the kitchen stove since I loathe the other housewifely activity of being bent over the ironing. ( If I'd had a waffle iron I could possibly have done a recipe with that instead, also fitting for our stumbling mumbling waffling Tony). I suppose I could then thank him for getting rid of the carbon tax so that it lowered the cost of electricity associated with using my iron - but in any case we have solar and I had no problem with the carbon tax to begin with. Yes, he really did say that.

If you aren't aware, Tony is famous for his somewhat bizarre raw onion munching activities, so in a humourous tribute yesterday before the result was even in, social media was alight with #putoutyouronions.  So, my contribution is this delicious rustic chilli onion tart (the chilli is the crying part). Serve with a large helping of bright greens...the leafy kind that is, not the political party ;) So long Tony - now every time I slice an onion, I'll think of you.

One quantity of vegan savoury shortcrust pastry
One quantity of vegan bechamel/white sauce
3 large onions
1 cup sliced sweet potato
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt
1/4 - 1/2 rsp chilli powder
few bayleaves

1.On a low heat saute the onions in a little oil with sugar, salt, and chilli powder until soft and caramelised (about 30 minutes).
2. While onions are cooking preapre your pastry and press into a greased tart tin. Pop in the freezer for 30 minutes, this helps prevent the pastry shrinking during baking.
3.Steam sliced sweet potato until just beginning to soften, and set aside.
4. Prepare you bechamel sauce, and while it is cooking out, blind bake the pastry shell for 10 minutes.
5. Take out the tart shell and put the potato on the bottom followed by the crying onions, and then pour the bechamel over the top evenly.
6. Bake for a further 20 minutes. Leave for 5 minutes to cool slightly, and then serve.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Vegan MoFo Day 3: Quick & Easy Green Fettucine

Thursday is usually a longish day for me.It's kennel day, so that means it's an hour and a half drive down the mountain and by the time I head home it's the same time back and I'm so beat I want something quick and easy for dinner. Today I was lucky it was a short day but with the Beloved being away and one of our fosters being "extra needs" at the moment I just wanted a simple dinner for one. Which is good since today's prompt is quick and easy!

Basically, I just cooked some fettucine and threw in any green vegie I had with some melted non dairy butter, garlic, chilli powder, and lemon zest. I go a bit overboard with lemon while the hubby isn't here because he isn't fond of it in savoury dishes. I had plenty of kale from the garden, parsley, peas, broccolini, and some avocado. I squeezed a bit of the lemon juice over the top with some pepper and voila! dinner.

I would like to say I ate it at the table but in in reality I just ate it on the sofa watching QI with Lady Poppy for company who was too busy wrapped in a food comatose of her own to be worried about what I had. Any dinner is a quick dinner if you're a greyhound - your mum makes it for you!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Vegan MoFo Day 2: Stuffed French Toast

Today's theme is to recreate a meal from your childhood. I decided to try French Toast. I also wanted to make stuffed French toast, because let's face it, if it's in a sandwich you don't have to use a knife and fork and you can eat it with one hand. Plus, the filling doesn't fall out when you flip it over - bonus!

This one sticks out in my mind so much because it was tied to a book. My very first cookbook of sorts. It was called Debbie Learns To Cook and I was five years old. I loved it, with its beautiful illustrations of Debbie learning to cook with a cat and dog by her side, and a few very simple recipes that children can make or help to make. Perhaps I've unconsciously been living by this book - except I installed doggy gates to keep inquisitive snouts out of the kitchen... I remembered I still had the book and it is just as I remembered it.

My first problem while pondering this was the egg replacement. I've tried a few methods, including batter, and silken tofu, but the batter was too heavy and tofu just doesn't quite do it for me as an egg replacement. Don't get me started on scrambled tofu... I've never liked it, however its made. So I decided to give aquafaba (tinned chickpea juice) a try! The result? Fluffy french toast slightly caramelised from the sugar :)

How I styled It: As Above - cute napkin and fork, etc etc...

How I Really Ate It: I ate half of one shooing Kimiko Cat off the table and having a cup of tea - but as I'm still feeling slightly off colour  and no way can I eat all of that, the remainder went to the dogs...Baz really likes banana :)

1 unsliced loaf of bread  (I used sourdough)
1/4 cup aquafaba
 1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
vanilla to taste
few strawberries
1 banana
coconut oil for frying

1.Whisk the aquafaba until it foams like you are making a meringue, and add the sugar. Keep beating, and then quickly whisk in the almond milk to combine, and vanilla, and pour into a shallow dish.

2. Cut the bread into thick slices about 3 cm thick. and then using a sharp knife, cut a "pocket" into the top of the slice, leaving the bottom and sides unopened.

3. Slice the strawberries and bananas and stuff into the pocket.

4. Place each pocket into the aquafaba mixture and allow to soak for a minute on each side.

5. Heat your coconut oil on medium heat in a heavy bottomed frying pan, and place each pocet in the pan. Cook until lightly browned and flip over to the other side. Don't do this on a high heat or the sugar gets too hot and it will stick to the pan. Slice in half so you can see the stuffing, or eat with one hand as is!