Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Pumpkin Wellington

On the first day of Christmas my vegie lover made for me...A Pumpkin Wellington with Onion Gravy...

I will admit, I stole the idea from Jamie Oliver for this one. Last year he did the vego spread for Delicious magazine, and this year he has done another one - including a vegan option God bless him. I have tweaked his version considerably to be a bit more Australian, but it's still  Christmassy and above all, absolutely delicious.

2 sheets of ready rolled puff pastry
1/2 butternut pumpkin
1 small red chilli
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coriander seed
two rosemary sprigs
1 large brown onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup button mushrooms
3 chopped figs
1/2 cup chopped macadamias
1/4 cup pinenuts
 handful fresh sage
1 cup baby spinach leaves
splash of white wine (or lemon juice if you don't use alcohol)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel and chop pumpkin inot bite sized chunks.
Chop onion into small chunks.
Chop 1/2 of the mushrooms into thick pieces.
In a food processor, chop rosemary, garlic, chilli, cinnamon, and coriander finely. If you don;\'t have a food processor, a mortar and pestle will do, or chop with a knife, and then bash between two pieces of greaseproof with a rolling pin.
Combine onion, and chopped herbs and spices and toss through olive oil on a baking tray. Cover with foil, and bake for approximately 1/2 hour to 45 minutes until onion and pumpkin is soft.
set aside and allow to cool.
Chop macadamias and figs, and add to pumpkin mix.
in a frying pan, saute remaining mushrooms and pinenuts in some olive oil until soft, and add the splash of wine, and sage. Allow to cool slightly and puree with spinach and breadcrumbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool completely. This can be done a day or two ahead and kept covered in fridge until ready to use.

Thaw puff pastry sheets.
Overlap two sheets by about 1 cm, and press firmly to adhere. Spread the mushroom and spinach mix over the pastry. Spoon pumpkin mixture over centre, allowing space for pastry to overlap when folded.
Pull up one side of the pastry to cover some of the filling, and keep rolling, to completely cover. Brush with water to create a seal between the two edges, and tuck ends under so filling won't spill out.
Carefully put onto baking tray and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut into thick slices to serve, with cranberry relish and onion gravy.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Vegan Canapes In A Spoon

Christmas is fast approaching, what do to when you belong to Club Veg and all you are offered for party nibbles is some spring rolls? (Yes, I have had this happen to me on a few occasions). Throw your own veg Christmas party of course, and with a few ideas like these you won't have a spring roll in sight! The beauty of these is that you can serve them in a spoon which is easily transferred from table to mouth and eaten with one hand while carrying a glass of something bubbly in the other. There is something quite funny about watching people at functions trying to carry a glass around, plus a plate, and work out how to eat from said plate without a third hand. But then again, these are just plain cute, so who needs a practical reason to serve these in a spoon?! You can buy plastic Chinese spoons quite cheaply, but if you think you would re use them, invest in some ceramic ones. Asian grocers usually have these fairly cheaply in an assortment of patterns.

Why not try...

Slices of mango and beans, with raw cashews, chili, grated fresh ginger and lime juice? (Raw vegan option)

Zucchini noodles with fresh tomato, olives, cracked black pepper and lemon juice with a little extra virgin olive oil? (Raw vegan option)

Rice noodles and beans with lots of finely chopped fresh herbs, a little chili and some olive oil?

Marinated mushrooms and fresh tarragon? You can serve these ones warm or cold.

If you need something to serve warm, what about some curry in a spoon? Cut a few corners by buying some pre made curry and you will only need to cook some rice - that way you can offer two or three types without having to make them all yourself. Warm the spoons on a tray in the oven, and serve immediately...being bite sized they will cool rapidly.

Baby spinach or sprout leaves topped with carrots and capers in vegan mayo and a sprig of dill? 

I'm sure you can come up with plenty more, and next time someone tells you they don't know what to serve a vegetarian...kindly send them a link here ;) Did I mention they are gluten free too? Bon appetit!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Chickpea Schnitzels

This week called for comfort food owing to the continued cold wet weather. I was beginning to contemplate building an ark, but the rain finally cleared up today...phew! Wednesday night dinner was creamy mashed potato, broad beans and spinach in burnt butter with almonds, and chickpea schnitzel - with home made mushroom and onion gravy.

The schnitzels were pretty quick to make, took me five minutes to put together once the onion and garlic were sauteed, and in the oven for about 15 minutes. I saved 1/3 onion and garlic to make the gravy. The Beloved was pretty keen to just go and buy some Fry's brand schnitzels, but I figured I could just make some up, and they were probably a lot more nutritious, even if the Fry's ones do taste so darn good!

1 can chickpeas
1 onion
1 large garlic clove
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T tamari
1 T vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Vegemite
3/4 cup ground pumpkin seeds and linseed
mixed herbs, salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in frying pan on low until soft.
Take 2/3 mixture and put into a bowl.
Empty can of chickpeas, rinse and drain. Add to onion and garlic and smash some of them with a potato masher (or whatever you feel like smashing with!).
Mix Vegemite into vinegar, tamari, and Worcestershire sauce, and then add this as well as all other ingredients to the mixture. Add a little water until mixture sticks together. It should be just sticking together like cookie dough, not sloppy. Shape into schnitzels and put onto a greased tray in the oven for about 15 minutes, until outside is crispy. I did 5, but you could easily get 6 if you made them a bit smaller. Serve with gravy.

I'll make a separate post on gravy as I would like to tweak the recipe a bit before Christmas, but the Massel brand instant gravy is pretty good with a dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar if you want to be lazy!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Vegan & Gluten Free Plum Pudding

Christmas! It's just around the corner, and I have just enough time to whip up a really good vegan gluten free plum pudding to age and it has actual plums in it...well...prunes. Sadly, many of the 'plum' puddings seen on supermarket shelves have no plums in them whatsoever (dare I say, not much fruit either!) Not to mention a great deal of suet...would you like some cow fat with your dessert? Erk. This has just as much flavour, cruelty free.  All the sweetness comes from the fruit, too. Don't tell anyone its vegan, just serve it and let everyone be none the wiser! The Beloved, once it was made, wanted to know when 'we' could eat it, and was very disappointed when I told him he would have to wait for Christmas! Sigh...

1 cup pitted prunes
1 cup mixed dried fruit with peel
ground cinnamon
ground ginger
1/2 cup re hydrated dried apricots pureed
1/2 cup apple juice
2/3 cup almond meal 
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup flaked almonds
2 tsp baking powder
40gr vegan butter or margarine

Chop prunes roughly, and put into a ceramic bowl with dried fruit and peel, spice, and at least 1/2 cup rum. Mix thoroughly, cover tightly with cling wrap and set aside for at least 3 days.
When fruit is ready to use, mix dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Add juice and melted butter, and pureed apricots. Mix well.
Add fruit and mix again.
Grease a pudding tin, and fill leaving about 1.5cm room at the top. Fit the lid, and put into a deep saucepan. Fill 1/2 way up the pudding tin with water, and put the saucepan lid on.  Allow to simmer for approximately 4 hours, checking the saucepan occasionally to ensure there is enough water -do NOT let it boil dry! Once cool, remove from tin and keep covered somewhere cool - in Australia I recommend the fridge! 

Over the next few weeks you can give the pudding another splash of rum when you remember to, just make sure you cover it well again when you are done. 

To reheat, steam again for 1- 2 hrs, or microwave for about 5 minutes. Serve with vegan custard of course!

Zucchini & Tomato Salad in Creamy Dressing

In another attempt to eat raw food despite the temperature seeming more like autumn than summer, this was yesterday's dinner (and today's lunch).  It reminds me of potato salad when the zucchini is prepared this way. You could probably omit the tomato, and it would be a bit more like potato salad, but I like the tomato in it. I got about 6 servings out of this.

5 medium zuchhini, peeled and chopped into chunks
5 large tomatoes chopped into wedges
1 small onion, sliced very thinly (I used a mandolin)
chopped parsley and chives

For the Dressing
2 Tablespoons tahini
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

After chopping the salad ingredients, make the dressing. I put all the ingredients into a container and blended it with my bar mixer. Then I just poured over and tossed through. It's my favourite dressing, sometimes I jazz it up with a bit of lime zest or juice, you can even add a bit of chili to it!

Lychee, Coconut & Passion Fruit Sorbet

I'm really into sorbet at the moment, I think I was inspired again when Mez made a huge batch of three flavours for Mechelle's wedding. With the hot weather back with us (except today, it's raining again!) I thought I'd give this one a whirl, and dust off the ice cream maker. To make it even easier because I was feeling rather lazy and couldn't be bothered making the sugar syrup (it was just too hot Saturday!), I used tinned lychees and used their syrup instead. I emptied a tin of lychees (about 500gr or thereabouts) and a 540ml tin of coconut cream into my Powermill  and blended it on high for about half a minute so that it was really smooth (bugger the sieving Mez, let the blender do the work!) I put the mixture into the ice cream maker and let it go for an hour. When it was done, I dolloped spoonfuls of the mixture with alternating spoonfuls of passion fruit in syrup straight form the cold tin I put in the fridge. I popped it in the freezer for a few hours, and although it needed to sit on the bench for a little while before serving, I think the flavour was really nice - not too sweet after all.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Marinated Artichokes

Not another bloody post on artichokes! I can hear you folks! But these are pretty tasty and will last me awhile I'm sure. Today I had to harvest the first crop of artichokes, and I got them in the nick of time. If you leave them until when they begin to open, you may find they are useless to eat as the flower has developed too far. A couple of the ones I cut today were unfortunately like this, but the rest were fine. There were over 30 of them in various sizes, and there are more coming - especially if I give them a chop, they will shoot up again and produce more for picking around February. 

I had enough to do one 2 litre jar that used to have olives in it, and another smaller 1 litre bucket. Obviously don't bother doing this if you aren't growing your own or can't get them really cheap. The harvest I had today I would moderately price at about $70 if I bought them! The seasonings were nearly all from our own garden, so I only had to buy the extra virgin olive oil.

Remember my post a little while ago on preparing artichokes for stuffing? Follow the same procedure for preparation before steaming them, except remove all of the tough outer petals until you get to the paler ones. Instead of cooking them whole, cut the artichoke in half and remove the choke if there is one, keeping the heart. 

Put them in a pan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt and a splash of lemon juice, and cook for about an hour on simmer. 

Drain, rinse, and leave to cool.

In the 2 litre jar I put three cloves of garlic, 1/2 sliced lemon, oregano, thyme, and savoury...all from our own garden. I added a few peppercorns and filled the jar with extra virgin olive oil until all the contents were covered.

In the second smaller bucket I put some chillies, lemon, and lime leaves with some garlic ( again, all from the garden). I filled this one up also with oil.

Over the next few weeks, I will give them a stir to disperse the flavours evenly, and check they are marinating properly. If you do this, make sure it is left in a cool dark place, especially in the Summertime! If they are getting too warm, I will put them in the fridge. They will be ready about 6 weeks from now, just in time for Christmas. I'm looking forward to pasta and pizza with these stirred through - delicious!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Artichokes with Broad Bean and Corn Stuffing


I love broad beans even more than I love artichokes. Put the two together and I'm even happier. Since the two are readily available from the garden at the moment I'm enjoying creating with them. 

I had a bunch of beans ready for the picking today, so myself and the Kitchen Fairy shelled them for dinner. you can tell when they are ready to pick for the beans inside by gently squeezing the bulge where the bean is. If there isn't much give, they are ready. You can also eat them young when they are a few centimetres long whole in stirfrys- and the leaves are also edible - why not try them in a  mixed salad? 


The easiest way to shell them is to pinch the top off, and run a finger down the "seam" popping out the beans as you go. I find it amazing that God created these with their own "Styrofoam" packaging. It's so soft and almost velvety,perfect for protecting the beans within.

What you end up with, is a pile like this. I blanch them for a minute in boiling water, and then cool. You can either eat them with their skin on if they are young enough, or if they are a bit older, you will need to shell them again. These guys were so young and sweet, I hardly needed to.

So, for the stuffing, this is what I did.

3/4 cup broad beans 
1 corn cob, kernels cut off
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
fresh dill, about 1 tablespoon chopped
1 garlic clove
knob of vegan margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
inner petals of the artichokes reserved earlier.

In a food processor, I combined the dill, garlic, artichoke petals, lemon juice, marg, and breadcrumbs. I added these to the corn kernels and beans, and then stuffed it into the artichokes. Popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes, and drizzled with a little olive oil when they came out. You could squeeze a little more lemon over them if you wanted to. when the stuffing is eaten, you can eat the petals by sliding the flesh off the petals with your teeth. Excellent dipped in a little garlic butter...

What about the rest of the stuffing? I added some chopped onion, formed them into patties, and fried each side until golden. They will make a great vegie pattie in a sandwich with some lettuce and mayo. Mmmmm....

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Preparing Fresh Artichokes for Stuffing

The time has come the walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of artichokes and kings... OK, so I may have tweaked Lewis Carroll a wee bit there...but you get my meaning! It's artichoke season! Hurrah! So I thought I'd show you folk how to prepare fresh artichokes, because I know for a fact most people wouldn't have a clue what to do with them. If you are lucky enough to be able to grow your own, this is a highly cheap meal, if not, grab them while they are nice and cheap at the grocer...cheapest I've ever seen was $1.00 each. If you have the room, they make a lovely border and the silver green fronds are very hardy through winter, and are so pretty in their own right I must commend them to you. But I'm getting distracting talking of the virtues of artichokes. Let's get down to business...

You must work quickly with artichokes, as they brown quickly. If you are doing a bundle of them, I suggest keeping a large pot with water and a splash of lemon juice beside you so that as you cut, you dunk them until you're ready to cook. First off, cut the top part off to remove all the spiky ends. 

Then turn it over, and cut the bottom off. If you are preparing them for stuffing, you will need the bottom nice and flat, as you can see below.

Next, fill a saucepan with water about two inched high. You want to steam rather than boil them, as you can see below.
Put the lid on the saucepan, and once the water boils, turn down to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain, and run cold water over them, and then allow to cool.

Once cool, gently prise apart the petals, the inner part which is soft and delicate flesh is fine to eat as is. Gently prise this out, as you can use it back in the stuffed artichokes later.

Any petals with a thorn on the end, as you can see above, trim. Last thing you want is your dinner date to choke on one of these!

If you are preparing the artichoke hearts for marinating, and dig deeper into the flower, discard this hairy bit, this is the "choke," and is NOT edible!

Underneath is the heart, which is absolutely divine marinated, but this will be for another post!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Welcome to the Jungle...

Artichokes going nuts! They are bigger than me!

I know, I know, I know. I just seemed to have gone AWOL after MoFo. But I have been a very busy girl! Work has been a little bit busier for me when one of my workmates was on holidays, and straight after that I was preparing for a lovely event...a wedding! I don't have any photos at the moment...because in all the haste I completely forgot my camera...but I will make a proper post of it later. It was so much fun to do food for a vegetarian wedding with one of my best buds Meredith, and the Kitchen Fairy helped as well. Even the Beloved was indispensable on the day!

Can you find the little apple-lets?

Spring has finally come to the Mountains in full force and my garden is looking a bit jungle like, so I've imagined myself donning an Indiana Jones hat and wielding a machete to find hidden treasure...or alternatively, David Attenborough turning up and going exploring with a running commentary in that wonderful British accent, and finding one of my lost pairs of secateurs...but I'm rambling. We've been busy on every weekend for the past month, so it will be mowing and pruning for us on Sunday! But as I burrowed under towering broad bean bushes I discovered we'll be eating beans this weekend, and the artichokes have gone mad, so we'll have to have some stuffed artichokes as well. So many reasons to feel good at the moment. The rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom and the garden looks oh- so- pretty! And the weather is WARM!  And our house has been renovated. And the chickens and ducks are happy, and the cats have been basking in the morning sun, and its iced tea season, and Christmas is coming... and there will be lots of fresh produce coming from our garden. So I'll keep y'all posted!