Monday, 27 May 2013

Superhero Snacks: Pink Flamingade

Who's snack is next from Pack of Heroes? One of my favourites, pink power Flamingal! What would she have  to power up her game? With a throat as long as hers you would need a big drink to keep hydrated. Ordinary humans would drink powerade, but she has Flamingade!  Of course, us mere mortals can drink it too. The pink colour comes from iced tea syrup made with strawberry tea and earl grey. Drink it mixed with soda  for a fizzy fix, or plain iced water. The flamingo straw is optional, but without would certainly be less fun!And once again, to check out the game and give some support to this fun project go here.

T2 Strawberries & Cream tea (if you don't consume dairy another strawberry tea brand will do)
Earl Grey tea
1 litre water
1 kg sugar

Make up 1 litre of tea at triple strength, 3 parts strawberry leaves to 1 part earl grey leaves (remember this is a syrup concentrate, you will water in down, not like regular tea) and leave to steep for half an hour.
Strain, and put back into a saucepan with the sugar.
Bring the pan to the boil and turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, and bottle. Keep in the fridge.
I make mine up one part syrup to three parts soda, but you may like it stronger or weaker.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Superhero Snacks: Hawaiian Mayan Trail Bar

Image from John D-C
First to fire up his superpowers on a super snack is Scarlet Macaw, aka the "Hawaiian Mayan." Being part bird I imagine one of his fave snacks would be a trail bar, full of his favourite nuts and seeds. But being part human and a nod to the Mayan part of his persona we would have to smother it in dark chocolate! Admittedly they aren't the most good looking snack, but they are yummy!


For the bottom layer
2/3 cup hazelnut meal
1/3 cup almond meal
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

For the top layer
2 cups soaked pitted dates
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon quinoa flakes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

and approximately 1 1/2 cups melted dark chocolate bits

Soak the dates in hot water for approximately 20 minutes. Drain and mash.

While the dates are sokaing mix the base layer ingredients with the melted coconut oil and spread over a grease proof paper lined tin. I used a 8 inch square tin. It will be fairly thin. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

Mix top layer ingredients with mashed dates and press over bottom layer, smoothing over. If the mixture is a bit too gooey just add some extra coconut to soak up the liquid.

Place in freezer for 15 minutes to firm up, and then cut into bars. I got 16 narrow bars, but you could make smaller bite sized ones and get 32 pieces. Place back into freezer for an hour to get hard. This makes it easier to coat and sets the chocolate quickly.

Melt the chocolate, and toss the bars into it one at a time, flipping out onto greaseproof paper. Put back in the fridge to set. You must use dark chocolate, the best you can get with bitter tones to it because the bar itself is very sweet. Also be quick to flip them out as the coconut oil will melt and the bar won't hold together very well.

Best kept in the fridge, but I doubt they will last long!

And to have a look at the game itself, head over here!

Pack of Heroes: Superhero Snacks

Image from John D-C

Hello dear readers, it's time for some shameless plugging on behalf of the amazingly creative Phil of Adventureland Games. He also just happens to be Mrs Bean's hubby. The sweet cheeks, as she calls him, has been designing a new game along with good friend and uber talented John D-C, artist extraordinaire! The game is called Pack of Heroes and is styled on a vintage comic book theme. Move over Avengers, you have nothing on the super powers of  the six awesome teams of Power City! If you love the superhero genre you will love this game, even for the concept and artwork alone. I've been lucky enough to get a few sneak peeks. Did I mention John has actually designed and made six action figures?! Wowsers! The two have worked very hard on it for most of this year, and I really hope it gets moving. To get it off the ground and distributed more widely requires quite a bit of financial backing, so through Kickstarter they are hoping to achieve this goal. To have a look at the promo and/or pledge to be a part of this super fun project go right here. And even if you don't want to pledge have a look at it and pass it on to someone you know who might!

Phil walker Harding and John D-C (photo from John D-C)

So you may be wondering what this has to do with a food blog. Well superheroes need super snacks! and you my friends, will need these snacks because when you get this game you will be playing it so much your own super powers will be depleted without them! So for the next little while I'll be running a theme on Superhero Snacks based on some of the heroes from the game. It's a fun light hearted little project for me, and at the same time maybe I can help Phil and John share their awesome work! I only wish the lunchbox did exist, because you guys would need it to put all these snacks in. Watch this space...

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Vegan Mushroom & Quinoa Moussaka (gluten free)

We love Greek food in our house. The Greeks just know how to make tasty vegetables like marinated artichokes, and char grilled eggplant. There was a fabulous little Greek restaurant in Katoomba called Treis Elies and we went there quite a few times for their ridiculously good veg banquet. We wouldn't eat much all day just so we had room to eat it all. Alas the restaurant is now closed, but we try and replicate some of our favourites at home. I have to say moussaka, in it's herbivore form, is just as tasty - no a lot tastier than it's carnivore counterpart. I've made this version a few times now, and it's now a favourite in our house. When I made this big baking tray last week, with the view to freeze in portions for when I am home late from work or on my own while Mr Sprout is away, my plan was somewhat thwarted. We had some for dinner, and I had a small portion for lunch the following day. When I got home, I found the tray denuded of it's spoils (there was over 1/3 left) and I thought my beloved had portioned it for me. That is, until he didn't eat much dinner and I discovered he had scoffed the lot! 

I'm not a fan of seitan, TVP or similar. I prefer using other ingredients to give a texture to "mince." My fallback is usually chickpeas, lentils, cracked wheat or a combo. Quinoa makes a nice change, and it's gluten free, so if you make the white sauce with gluten free flour, your gluten intolerant comrades will thank you for it.

You can char grill and marinate your own eggplant, or use store bought. This time I used store bought as I didn't have time to make my own, but usually I do it from scratch. Using a mandolin, cut the eggplant into slices (I usually make them thin, about 0.5cm). If they are the larger eggplants, you will need to salt them to take out the bitterness. It will also stop them from soaking up as much oil when you grill them. Place in a colander over a bowl or in the sink for an hour, you will see a pool of brown liquid which means the salt has done it's job!  Give the eggplant a light rinse and let it drain before patting dry. Fry/char grill on a hotplate in vegetable oil until golden and put aside. Drizzle with garlic infused olive oil, a little white wine vinegar and chopped oregano, leaving it covered, overnight in the fridge.


For the quinoa "mince"

3 char grilled eggplant (or store bought)
1  cup quinoa
500 gr mushrooms, chopped
2  x 400 gr tins of tomato puree
1 x 400 gr tin chopped tomatoes
2 large brown onions, chopped
2 carrots,  finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
vegetable stock
pepper to taste
1 bunch oregano, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley,  finely chopped

Cook quinoa according to apcket directions in vegatabel stock and set aside.
In a large saucepan, gently saute onion, garlic, celery and carrot until tender. 
Add mushrooms, and cook for a couple of minutes more.
Add tinned and puree tomatoes, oregano, parsley, and pepper, and stir through. 
Add cooked quinoa, and about a cup of water, and allow to simmer gently for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it is done you should have a soft porridge consistency. Don't be alarmed if it seems a little runny, quinoa keeps soaking up liquid. Set aside to cool. If you are making this ahead, cover and keep in the fridge until ready to assemble.

For the white sauce
3 tablespoons nuttelex
1 litre of soymilk ( I use bonsoy as it has a good flavour for creamy sauces)
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/3 cup gluten free plain flour (I use Orgran)
ground white pepper
pinch salt

In a saucepan, melt nuttelex and add flour, stirring vigorously into a paste. Slowly add soymilk a  little at a time, to ensure the sauce stays smooth. Add dijon, pepper, and salt, and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, still stirring. It should be nice and thick.

To assemble the moussaka, grease a large deep oven tray, and layer eggplant to cover the bottom. Spread some of the quinoa mixture over the eggplant, and repeat until you run out of mixture. I usually get three layers of eggplant. cover the top with the white sauce, and pop into a 180C oven for about 40 minutes, until top is golden. you can drizzle the top with oregano pesto if you like, or just garnish with a few fresh oregano leaves.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Warm Roasted Cauliflower & Spinach Salad with Dukkah

Just because the temperature has plummeted does not mean I have to give up on salads. All it means is that I can be a bit more creative and enjoy some warm salads with some of my favourite vegetables. Some people do not like brassicas like cauli or broccoli, but I love them! Cauliflower takes on a beautiful nutty flavour when roasted, and it tastes very different to the plain steamed version. Lemon myrtle dukkah pairs pretty well with the salad, but you could use any kind you like.

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup baby spinach
3 heaped tablespoons of lemon myrtle dukkah
sunflower oil
garlic infused olive oil

Break the cauliflower into florets and wash, draining well.
In a 180C preheated oven, lay the florets on baking paper and drizzle with sunflower oil.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes, and then give it a shake, turning the pieces over. They should be dark golden on the side that was down. Bake for a further 10 minutes.
Wilt the spinach in a saucepan, and toss through the cauliflower. 
Gently warm through the dukkah in a dry frying pan and toss through the salad, drizzle with alittle garlic oil, and serve while warm.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Vegan Pumpkin & Chestnut Tart

I apologise for lack of posts! Working two occupations has left little time for cooking experiments and I've fallen into the trap of cooking from the books. But now that I have a bit of time to breathe I should have a few up for you in the next couple of weeks. 

Autumn is my favourite time of year. The vibrant red and gold leaves against muted browns and sparkling green moss; the mellow warmth of an afternoon and the crisp cool evenings when Mr Sprout lights the fire and we settle in for the evening. The harvest has been gathered and the farmers markets and the grocer are full of the bounty of a good summer. I feel we are spoilt for good local produce 
in Australia, and especially the mountains where I live. Despite my lack of input this last season (although I was full of good intentions, not full of time) the garden managed to produce without me. We have plenty of spuds, and I have been making potato bakes - good comfort food. The pumpkin vine managed to produce 10 decent sized fruit, and the kale hasn't gone to seed so I've left it for the winter. We have oodles of purple garlic, some of which I replanted, and plenty of red shallots (also some of which was replanted). I even got in some early broad beans which have taken off - so not bad considering.

But what to do with the pumpkins? I made a pumpkin and chestnut tart, with roasted red shallots, spinach, mushrooms, sage, and garlic. All lovely autumn goodies. don't be daunted by making pastry. The beauty of this one is I did not blind bake, and it still cooked beautifully on the bottom. The trick is not to roll your pastry too thick. Freezing before baking I found helps prevent the pastry shrinking back too, and I didn't bother to let the dough rest before I rolled it. I don't know about you but letting the dough rest always means to me it goes too hard and I can't roll it, so I don't bother - putting it in the freezer works just as well, if not better. It's up to you.

2 cups plain flour
100 gr copha
50 gr nuttelex
pinch salt
cracked black pepper
cold water

Grate copha, and rub through flour with nuttelex until you have what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add salt, and pepper to your taste (Mrs Bean and myself get a bit excited about pepper, but you can omit it if you like).
Add a little water, enough to bring the mixture together into a firm, slightly sticky dough. I typically use about 2 tablespoons, but on a warm day I may use a little more. Knead for a minute or two, and roll out to about 3 mm thick on a floured bench. 
Press into a lightly greased tart tin (I used a long rectangular tin) and pinch the excess off the top. Put into the freezer while you do the filling, or you can cover and leave in the freezer until you need it.

2 cups cooked pumpkin, half of which needs to be mashed, the other half roughly chopped
1 large  roasted red shallot bulb, chopped
5 large roasted chestnuts, chopped
small handful sage leaves
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
handful spinach leaves
small handful raisins or cranberries
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp crushed coriander
pinch allspice

Roast the pumpkin and shallots and allow to cool.
Mash one cup pumpkin and spread onto the base of the frozen tart shell.
Sprinkle remaining pumpkin pieces onto mashed pumpkin with other ingredients, and drizzle with garlic infused olive oil.
Place in a a 180C preheated oven for approximately 25 - 30 minutes, or until pastry is light golden.