Saturday, 31 December 2011

Christmas & New Year Roundup

Happy New Year! I would have loved to have done a couple of posts on New Year party food ideas, but alas, the week got away from me. Hope you all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and whipped up a fantastic vegetarian meal that may have won over a carnivore or two? And if this was your first vegetarian Christmas, I hope you enjoyed it and were surprised at how many more options you have than the standard turkey or ham.

I ate a LOT between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. It started with a dinner with my sisters and the Beloved; followed by Christmas at the Beloved's parents; followed by 'real' Christmas/Boxing Day with some beloved friends. (And the time I spent cooking with you on Boxing Day darling Merry wasn't a chore at all, it was a delightful activity shared with people I love). So if I gave you all a list of all the delicious vegetarian food I ate it would take quite some time. So suffice it to say, I am going to just about live at the gym this January.

So what did you get for Christmas? This year most of mine were food related (not a bad thing) and I was quite spoiled. Some of the highlights I got were...a stack of cooking books, my favourites being the gorgeously presented Tasting India given to me by my loving husband; and the going-to-be- invaluable Cooking Ingredients (with a donation inside to Animals Australia - just lovely) given to me by my sister- in- law Claire. 

The Beloved also got me a canning/bottling kit because according to him, he got sick of me burning myself and my cries of 'oo' 'ow' 'eek' when making jam. So although I now have a set of iron tipped fingers the kit is very much appreciated. 

And the piece de resistance - not one, but a whole set of Japanese chef's knives. Plus a knife sharpener for good measure. The Beloved told me (about 50 times) that I must look after them, so I'm a little afraid to use them! But it must mean the Beloved loves me very much, and /or he is anticipating lots of new dishes made with said knives this year. In either case it's a pretty darn good present!

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Gluten Free Polenta Tarts with Creamy Mushrooms and Tarragon

I love polenta. I love how versatile an ingredient it is, and how it turns into perfect tarts with minimum of work. This would be really nice as an entree, or as a main part of the meal. A bit of cranberry relish on the side wouldn't go astray either...and it's gluten free! Serves 4


For the tarts
2 cups of polenta
3 cups water
1 tablespoon of massel vegetable stock concentrate
pepper to taste

For the sauce
1 punnet of mushrooms - Swiss browns are beautifully flavoured
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup white wine
1 heaped teaspoon maize cornflour (not wheaten kind)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan place polenta, water, and stock. Stir on low heat until polenta thickens into a stiff porridge.
Smooth equal portions into tart tins with removable bases, smooth, and leave aside to cool.

To make the sauce, gently saute chopped onion and crushed garlic until translucent in vegan margarine. Add mushrooms and white wine, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add soymilk and chopped tarragon. Dissolve cornflour into a little extra soymilk, and stir into mushrooms, until sauce thickens slightly, the consistency of cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Invert tarts onto plates, and reheat -either in the microwave on high for one minute each tart, or covered in the oven for about 15 minutes 180C.

Spoon mushrooms over polenta tarts, and top with more tarragon and cranberry relish, if desired.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Ice Cream Christmas Trees

I snatched the idea from an issue of Delicious magazine last year, but of course, veganised it. It is such a simple yet fantastic way to style dessert, and you can use whatever flavours you like. For this one, I used finely chopped fruit mince and a splash of brandy. Just add to slightly melted bought vanilla ice cream and mix well. Other flavours you could try mixed through...

Smashed candy canes
Glace ginger
Candied orange peel and dried cranberries
Dried cherries
Coconut and chopped vanilla glazed almonds
Grated chocolate and hazelnuts

Cut rectangles of greaseproof to fit an equally sized piece of paper. 

Wrap around a narrow glass with the greaseproof on the inside to get consistent sizes, and turn into a cone. Tape together to hold.

Put into a glass to hold the cone, and spoon ice cream mixture into the cones. Place in freezer overnight.

When ready to serve, unwrap cones, and then invert onto a plate. Decorate with toasted nuts or fresh fruit.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Gluten Free Canellini Bean Roll with Olive & Herb Stuffing

This recipe is designed to replace seitan mock meats. The use of Xanthan gum acts as the binding agent, which means it is gluten free. This also works really well made into small sausages (without the stuffing of course). I really don't like seitan, at least not on a regular basis. This is digested much more easily. Serve thick slices with onion gravy

2 cans cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup polenta
1 small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable stock concentrate
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
salt and pepper to taste

For the stuffing
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
handful of fresh herbs, I used parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme
1 tablespoon finely diced onion
3 sundried tomatoes
small handful of pitted kalamata olives

Process the beans, stock concentrate, lemon juice, xanthan gum, salt and pepper until smooth. Tip into a bowl and add chopped onion and polenta, stirring thoroughly. Set aside for about 15 minutes until polenta has soaked up excess liquid from the beans and the mixture has thickened.
Put all the stuffing ingredients into a processor and pulse until combined. Add a little hot water at a time until stuffing comes together. Roll into a sausage about 20cm long.
Grease a length of tinfoil, and thickly spread bean mixture.Place the stuffing sausage in the centre, and gently bring up sides of foil to cover the stuffing with the bean mixture. Smooth and touch up to cover all stuffing, and then roll foil and twist ends to form a bonbon. Make sure you make this to fit into a steamer basket - my largest steamer basket is about 20cm long. Place in steamer basket and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly, then unwrap and cut into slices. Easily reheated in oven or microwave, if made the day before, or steamed again to heat.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Gluten Free Vegan Yule Log

My mother in law makes this, as a very non vegan non gluten free dessert. It is very decadent and the Beloved loves it. I think this version is pretty close to the mark, maybe a bit firmer. Only a small slice, it is very rich! You can save time by buying gluten free chocolate biscuits (Freedom Foods make really good ones), but making your own isn't that much work. This makes a small log of about 12 serves - unless you're a piggy of course!

2 cups gluten free dark choc biscuits crushed fine
1/2 cup almond meal
1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons melted vegan margarine
splash of brandy, or whatever you please that's sweet
water if needed
2 tubs tofutti (or equivalent in whipped coconut cream)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp pure icing sugar (not the mixture, it isn't gluten free)

Put the biscuits and almond meal in the food processor and pulse to combine.Tip into a bowl and add margarine, melted chocolate and brandy to form a dough. Add a little water if it is too dry and not sticking together. 
Roll into a log and cover in greaseproof and clingwrap. Leave overnight to set. 
Just before serving whip tofutti, lemon juice, and sugar until fluffy and spread over log. Decorate with fresh fruit if desired.

The tangy tofutti gives a welcome relief to the sweetness of the chocolate, but you can just use sweetened coconut cream instead. After I made this I thought a hazelnut variation with Frangelico would have hit the spot...guess I'll have to make another one and call it the New Year Log LOL!

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Slow Roasted Tomato & Peach Salad with White Wine Vinegar

You may be thinking peaches would not go very well with tomato, but tomatoes are so lovely and sweet when slow roasted, I think the peaches go rather well with them! Back off the sweetness with some white wine vinegar, and a sprinkling of  onion and fresh basil, and some cracked black pepper and salt. Easily made the day before so there's less to do on Christmas Day. Delicious! If you drain this well, the salad would go beautifully in a tart with some pine nut parmesan.

Equal amounts of tomatoes and peaches (1 each per person for a side dish)
olive oil
sliced onion
fresh basil
cracked black pepper
white wine vinegar

In a roasting pan, put quartered tomatoes and chunky slices of peach. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Roast at 130C for about an hour. Fruit should still hold together but be soft. Take out and allow to cool. toss some raw sliced onion, fresh basil, a splash of vinegar, and the salt and pepper to taste. Voila! 

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Pumpkin & Cranberry Ravioli with Brandy Butter & Toasted Pistachios

Look at the lovely colour as you bite into these...mmmmm

And in a spoon as a canape. 

I'm not exactly sure what prompted this one. I guess I was thinking about traditional Christmas ingredients. I think of it like a biteful of Christmas. This would be lovely as an entree, or fold gow ghee pastry to make small ones and serve in Chinese spoons as an appetiser or canape. It will definitely be making the carnivores wishing they had these too!

1 cup butternut pumpkin
1 small onion
Handful frozen or dried cranberries
1275g packet gow ghee pastry
1/4 cup vegan margarine
splash brandy
pistachios, lightly toasted for decoration

Pan fry or roast onion and pumpkin. Allow to cool and then puree together.
When completely cold, put a small teaspoon pumpkin mixture with a couple of cranberries on a round of pastry. Wet the edges and carefully place another round on top, pressing firmly to seal. Continue until you have the number desired (this quantity makes one batch from one packet of gow ghee pastry, which is 15 ravioli, or 5 entree serves).
Steam or cook ravioli in boiling water, until tender (this only takes a couple of minutes).
While ravioli is cooking, in a small saucepan melt butter and add brandy, and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Toast crushed pistachios lightly in a hot frying pan without oil.
Remove ravioli with a slotted spoon, and place on serving plate (three is sufficient for an entree). Drizzle brandy butter over ravioli and sprinkle crushed pistachios over the top.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Pavlova

I have been looking for a product that will do exactly what it says it will do, and that is, to create a vegan meringue. And it has to be economical.  I have tried the Angelfoods Marshmallow fluff mix, but I thought it was a bit overpriced considering the ingredients, and the texture was a bit wrong. So I thought I would give the Orgran No Egg another try, as they now have a recipe for meringues on the back. Wowee! It worked beautifully!The Orgran recipe is absolutely perfect. It does take some time (two hours in the oven plus another hour cooling) but it was easy to go and do other things in the meantime, so it was no biggie. It took about 15 minutes to prepare, it's basically a lot of beating, but it wasn't complicated. I think the use of pectin rather than agar gives the meringue a much better consistency. I would like to have another go at these from scratch, without the packet - if I succeed there will definitely be another post. The finished meringues were crispy on top and lovely and soft and fluffy on the inside. You can make them a day or two ahead and put them in an airtight container, so what about a fantastic vegan Aussie pavlova for Christmas?! I topped this one with some Tofutti cream cheese, some blueberry sauce and fresh fruit. You could also try whipped coconut cream, or the Soyatoo stuff in a can. Let your imagination run wild!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Harvesting the Loot Saturday

It's been raining and raining and raining...where the bloody hell are ya summer? Christmas just isn't Christmas in Australia unless it's hot. It stopped yesterday, although it was still overcast, to allow me to get out and do some urgent harvesting, among other things, in the garden. It was a very productive, pleasing day, despite the sound of the Beloved using the mulcher to chop up the spent broad beans and artichokes (watching him is not for the faint hearted) and the high pitched screaming and squealing that went on and on and on ALL freaking afternoon from the brats next door. Seriously where the f*** the parents were I have no idea - it sounded like murder was being committed. I was sorely tempted to get the hose out and use the jet nozzle over the fence...

My first job was to harvest all the broad beans, to dry out for winter use. I cut the plants whole, just above the base, and the Kitchen Fairy obligingly pulled the pods off for me while I got on with other work. We have a lot! this of course, doesn't include the few baskets I already got to use fresh, so we have quite the bumper crop this year. The roots, being valuable to the soil, I kept to dig back into the bed after I thoroughly weeded. If you look at the photo below, you can see the nodules of nitrogen fixed to the roots. This is precious - much better than the chemical crap sold in bags at Bunnings.

I replanted the bed straight away with some well established seedlings that are heavy feeders, some cool climate fast growing melon, and some tomatillos. I confess I was reaching despair for the tomatillos this year. All the seedlings I carefully raised suddenly died after transplanting due to a few really hot days, despite the watering. I have a suspicion Yoshi puss may have "watered" them himself after I planted them...but to my joy, several volunteer plants are sturdy and beginning to flower so I moved them to a better location. I won't bother sowing seed again, I'll just let them pop up when they are ready - they are much like tomatoes in that respect, and borage.

By the time I'd finished with that, the soil was dry enough for me to harvest the garlic. It wasn't as dry as I would have liked, but I've lain them out to dry off for a few days, then I will carefully brush off the remaining soil, and plait in strands to hang up and cure. It was a crop similar to last year ( we still have a bit left), which means that I judged correctly and we will have enough until next harvest. I haven't had to buy garlic for well over a year, and being organically grown is much better for us. It is also much stronger than the imported Chinese stuff, so less is required.

Next job yesterday was netting the fruits - a job I was more than happy to do! My raspberry canes are fruiting this year (it takes until the second season to fruit after planting) and I'm anticipating lovely fresh berries to have as dessert. There are quite a lot of these little bunches along the side fence, and the blackberries have also begun to flower. I wouldn't want the birds to feast on these rather than me!


For the same reason, I netted the peaches, which was a bit of an effort, but with a long stake I managed to push up high enough to get over the top without resorting to a ladder.

And with all this fruit coming along nicely, I'm trying not to count my peaches before they're ripe!

I finished the day off with mucking out the chook shed, transplanting zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers,  weeding, and chopping back the artichokes after their second crop. I may even get another crop by the end of summer, but I will have to divide the clumps in the autumn. There were some early spuds to harvest, the first of the strawberries, and  purple podded peas. Whew! I hope your weekend was as productive as mine!

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Potatoes Dauphinoise

These potatoes are the perfect comfort food on their own, not to mention going brilliantly with a vegie roast. My mum makes a similar version of these which we always called scalloped Christmas potatoes, although she never cooked the potatoes in milk first. She would finish the top of this incredibly cheesy dish with parsley and paprika for Christmas colours. There was always a fight, especially with my Dad and sister Rachel, as to who got the biggest serve, and who could have seconds. No such thing as leftover potatoes in out house! I never thought there could be a creamy enough vegan version of these, as all the other recipes I've tried involve making a sauce from tofu, which I find goes a bit grainy. So this is my version, made with coconut cream, which I find just as satisfying as the dairy version. The coconut can't be tasted when the potatoes are cooked, by the way! Allow at least two good sized spuds per person for a generous serve.

8 medium sized potatoes
1 can coconut cream
200 ml water or soymilk/ricemilk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 brown onions
1 large garlic clove - if you like garlic, have two!
2 tsp nutritional yeast
ground black pepper
1 log cheezly cheddar or other vegan cheese of your choice
vegan margarine

Wash and peel potatoes and slice thinly - I used my mandolin which makes short work of this, but a sharp knife is fine too! Drop into a basin of cold water if it takes you a while to slice, or if you are doing a large batch. Drain well when you are ready to use.
Chop onion.
Grate cheese.
Using a blender, blend half the coconut cream, and half the water with garlic, Dijon mustard, ground black pepper to taste, and nutritional yeast.
I use a heavy bottomed iron casserole dish that can go from stove top to oven, but if you don't have one, use a saucepan for this next step, and then transfer to an oven dish.
Put potatoes in pot with chopped onion, and then pour blended mixture over the top to cover. Cook gently on medium heat until about half the liquid is absorbed, or the potatoes have softened (not cooked, just softened they shouldn't fall apart!
Mix the remaining liquid, and pour over potatoes. Add two thirds of the cheese, and turn through potatoes gently.

Cover with foil or a lid and place in oven on 180C for about 45 minutes. Check to see if the potatoes are fully cooked, and liquid level. the potatoes should not be dry, they should be saucy, and move around a little bit. Remove the foil or lid, and then dab blobs of vegan margarine over top of potatoes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over, and add paprika and parsley if desired. Place back in oven for 10 -15 minutes until top is golden.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Macadamia Baklava with Rosella Syrup

On the second day of Christmas my vegie lover made for me...some baklava! And not regular baklava, but Aussie baklava made with macadamias (native to Australia, not Hawaii as some mistakenly believe) and drenched in rosella syrup (I'm talking fruit here folks, not the bird!) Rosella, or roselle, is grown for the gorgeous red calyx of the flower, rather than the seed pod. It is related to the hibiscus, and has been popularly used to make jams and syrups since colonial times. It tastes a bit like plums, but more tart, and provides a very vibrant coloured syrup. I bought the rosella powder to make life easier, but you could also buy the preserved flowers to colour and flavour your syrup, you'll just have to strain. If you can't find rosella, try making a raspberry syrup instead, but be sure to strain well.

1 packet of filo pastry
200g vegan margarine
500gr macadamias
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200gr caster sugar
200ml water
2 tsp rosella powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice bran syrup

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a lamington tin (baking dish about 20x30cm).
Chop nuts and cinnamon in food processor until like coarse breadcrumbs.
Melt margarine.
Carefully unroll filo pastry, and trim to fit baking tin. Work quickly with this pastry so it doesn't dry out. Place 2-3 sheets in bottom of tin, and brush with melted margarine. Sprinkle a handful of nuts to cover lightly. Put another 2-3 sheets of pastry on top, brush with margarine, and repeat layers finishing with pastry, with melted margarine on top. 
Using a sharp knife, cut into squares, diamonds, or triangles. 
Place in oven, and bake for approximately 30 -40 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
While the pastry is baking, make the syrup.
Place sugar, water, lemon juice, rice bran syrup, and rosella powder into sauce pan and bring to boil. Bring back to a simmer immediately and leave for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
when pastry is baked, pour hot syrup over the top evenly, and allow to cool. Do not cover or it will sog. Best kept in the fridge for up to a week (if it lasts that long!)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Perfect Vegan Onion Gravy

Just because you're a vegetarian doesn't mean you can't have the best gravy. I've played around a lot with this to get a nice deep flavour. This gravy can easily be made the day before and kept in a sealed container. Just reheat and give it a whisk to remove any lumps formed by the "skin." 

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/2 brown onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup red wine
approx 500ml water
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (Spring Gully makes one, easily available at Franklins or Coles)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tsp tamari
two or three porcini mushrooms, or a few dried shittake mushrooms
few sprigs of fresh thyme, finely chopped.
ground black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan melt margarine, and add flour. Stirring constantly, form a roux, and add onion. Fry gently until deep golden. Slowly add the water a splash at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add all other ingredients, and add more water if necessary to reach the consistency desired. Leave for five minutes. At this point I use my bar mix to remove any lumps and blend in the mushrooms and onion to a puree. Leave on simmer, stirring and adding a bit more water if necessary, for about half an hour. This allows the flour to cook out thoroughly. Nothing tastes worse than gravy that reminds you of dough! Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve piping hot over anything you like!