Monday, 30 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Juice Feasting and Gazpacho Juice

The last week of MoFo was hard for me. I didn't post as much, I was feeling pretty run down, but also uber excited about helping with the wedding of the lovely John and Emma from Sweets Workshop  last Saturday. Thanks to some indulgent eating through the month, overeating at the wedding (how could I not?) and a few late nights, I am feeling quite the granny. I'm hoping the juicing will promote some good healing in my body, I've been suffering from bad joint pain throughout my feet on waking and if I've been sitting for awhile, and since I detest going to the doctor so much, I hope maybe its just a flag my body is waving at me telling me to take care of it better. 

Last time I went raw for a whole month I slept better, felt better, and lost 7kg. I'm not sure why I didn't continue with it, maybe I just wasn't ready. This time, I've decided to try a juice feast to try and do some serious healing in my body, and maybe I can get back on track. My aim is at least 21 days, but if I feel that I should extend at the end of that, I may go longer. 

But what is a juice feast you may ask, and how is it different to a juice fast? Basically, the aim of a juice fast is to restrict calorie intake, but a juice feast is about abundance - the aim is at least 3-4 litres of fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juice per day. The Beloved isn't doing it with me, but seems to be ok with me making him a really big salad for dinner with something really easy on the side so I don't have the torture of cooking something I can't eat. 

Yesterday was my first day, and I was still feeling pretty whacked out from the weekend. I drank about 3 litres over the day, and ended up having a nap in the afternoon (which I never do!) I'm still feeling pretty ordinary today, and expect to remain this way for a few more days before I perk up again. 
I did have a really nice gazpacho juice for lunch from Vegetable Juices by Joanna Farrow that I picked up a year or two ago, I'll be using it a lot to keep the juicing interesting and also to make sure I have as much different produce as possible. So here goes, wish me luck! 

Vegan MoFo 2013: Some of My Favourites

Well, MoFoers, MoFo 2013 is almost at an end. I put down my spoon, wash my dishes, and hang up my apron. I'm on a juice feast for the next while,  as I'm not feeling that great. I've been a bit overindulgent of late (read: naughty things I know I shouldn't eat but ate anyway) and need to reboot my digestion. So you may not see many posts from me for a little while (unless they are juice or smoothie related!)

I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite MoFo posts to finish off the month.

Suzanne over at Hello Veggy made some very moreish looking citrus spiced tahini oatmeal. This is right up my alley, I reckon when I've finished my juice feast I'll be looking at you oatmeal!

Green Gourmet Giraffe made some pretty snappy looking sushi stacks. I like the construction of these, like teeny weeny sandwiches.

Shannon at Leaves and Flours made these awesome hummingbird cakes with pineapple flowers. I've seen these on pinterest too, but alas, have never bothered to make them. She's given me inspiration to make them - they look so pretty!

Julie at My Apologies for the Novel made some mozzarella! 

Kylie at Fellowship of the Vegetable made a pomegranate ginger cocktail. I think a cocktail night with the newlyweds at Sweets Workshop might be in order when they get back from their mini-moon. I reckon Kylie's recipes might float their boat!

Caeli at Little Vegan Bear made some gorgeous Pea and Mint Risotto - it made my heart sing it was a bowl full of Springtime! What's not to love about a creamy seasonal risotto?

 Almost Skinny Vegan Food made some Kasmiri Rogan Josh - I wanted it to jump out of the screen and into my mouth! Claire's been veganising a lot of fantastic cookbook recipes all month, you should check them out.

And last but not least Vegan Sparkles cherry ripe smoothie. Oh Rebecca, that is the most perfect sounding dessert smoothie. Yes, yes, yes! I'll have what she's having!

What were your favourites this year?

Just Desserts: Chocolate Burgers

Yes, you read that right. This is a CHOCOLATE BURGER!! Imagine a sweet chocolate bun, with a chocolate and nut pattie, fresh sliced strawberries, chocolate mint leaves( this IS a variety of mint, not actual chocolate) vegan cream cheese, and chocolate sauce. For dessert. These would be great for a party done in a mini version, and served with a strawberry or chocolate shake in a mini bottle and a cute paper straw. Make them and console yourself that MoFo is over for another year :)

The Buns
2 1/2 cups of bakers flour
1/2 cup dutch cocoa powder
approx 500 mls warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
approx 4 tablespoons olive oil

I'm going to give you a bit of a 101 for making a good bread dough, even though I already did it here. Not kneading for a pizza dough is fine. Not kneading for a bun or a loaf is not!

Whisk together yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water. Set aside until bubbly and frothy - if it doesn't bubble your yeast is dead! Add the cocoa and half the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until all incorporated. Gradually add remaining flour until you have a nice soft dough, easily indented with a finger.Turn the dough out onto a floured bench top or board and knead, knead, knead for about 10 minutes. The best way to knead is to fold over the dough on itself, and use your weight to push forward and squash the dough - which is less tiring than using only your arm muscles. give it a quarter turn and repeat. Pop on your favourite few songs, I usually knead to three or four tracks rather than timing it. There are recipes out there that claim to be "no knead." I am here to tell you, they will not be as good, will probably be quite crumbly (like a scone) and in my opinion, suggests a certain amount of laziness. Kneading is not hard!! It's 10 minutes - consider it part of a workout! If you really can't knead, and you have a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead for about 7 minutes, and finish it off by hand. This way you will 'feel' the dough has changed and know it is ready. Kneading activates the gluten in the flour, which gives the dough the elasticity it needs to capture gases created by the yeast creating air pockets and giving structure to your buns, and  a chewy texture. Properly kneaded dough rises quickly and well. When it is ready the dough will be silky soft, and elastic - ie if you try to pull a bit off, it won't tear easily.

Put your dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 3/4 an hour, or until doubled in size.
Punch down your dough, knead for a minute, and then portion into the bun size you would like (remembering the dough is going to get a bit bigger still). 1/4 cup pieces gave me a good size, not too big.
Preheat your oven to 180C and bake until bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the top is browning too quickly, just put some foil over the top. 40 minutes does the trick in my gas oven, but may take less or longer in yours. Turn out when done, and allow to cool.

The Chocolate Patties
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup pitted dates, soaked and drained
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup hazelnut meal

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until you have a nice firm texture. Add a little water if too crumbly, if too wet, add a little more hazelnut meal. Shape into patties to fit the buns.

To assemble, cut your bun in half, spread with cream cheese on the bottom. Place the chocolate mint leaves, then the pattie, then sliced strawberries, some more cream cheese if you like, and some chocolate sauce, gently replacing the top of the bun. Voila!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Warm Beetroot & Blue Lentil Salad with Caramelised Walnuts

This is one of those salads that we always go back to because it is so hearty. You can have it warm when the weather is a bit cool, or cold when the days are heating up. It has the lovely earthy taste of beetroot with the nutty savoury lentils, a little pop of sweetness from the walnuts, and lovely peppery rocket to round it off. 

Makes 6 serves

2 large beetroot, roasted
1 cup cooked blue lentils
4 cups rocket
3/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tablespoons garlic extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
salt to taste

1.Roast beetroot in their skins in alfoil until soft, and allow to cool.
2.While beetroot is roasting, cook lentils according to packet directions, drain, and set aside.
3. Caramelise walnuts by melting margarine in a frying pan with sugar until syrupy. Toss walnuts through mixture, and then spread out on a tray lined with baking paper and allow to cool.
4. When beet is cool, gently rub off skin - it should slide off easily - wearing gloves to make things less messy! Thinly slice. If you are having the salad warm, toss the beetroot, oil, and cumin in with the lentils and gently warm through on a low heat, or just toss through without warming.
5.  Mix beetroot and lentils into rocket, sprinkle walnuts over, and sprinkle a little sea salt and cracked black pepper on the top

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Artisan Bread

A while ago I found a book called Artisan Breads  by Jan Hedh. I immediately bought it because I was suckered in by all the beautiful bread in the book, and also the recipes for bread made from wild yeasts. I have another bread book written in the early 70's which has taught me a lot about breadmaking, but it was pretty standard sort of recipes. Since Jan is a Swedish baker I was sure I would learn new skills and recipes, and they would be a success. But then it lingered on the bookshelf, because learning a new bread recipe takes time and patience, and at that point I had none. 
A couple of weeks a go I began a raisin starter from the book. 

The recipe called for honey as well as sugar but I omitted it in the hope it would work anyway. I had no idea the French usually make sourdough with a honey and raisin starter, so now I know! It worked and a week later my jar of raisins was bubbling like champagne, and the jar opened with a pop! You can see the bubbles in the photo below.

 I went ahead making the 'mother' and then the 'chef' which sounds complicated but really it wasn't, I just put it into the Kitchenaid with the dough hook on and timed it. I do like making the actual loaf by hand, or at least finishing it by hand though. Breadmaking is such a tactile process and you really need to 'feel' the dough turn into elastic. I made the dough for a wheat and rye loaf on Friday night, and left it overnight, hoping I had done everything right and it would rise. Phew... it did! I baked it off Saturday morning and we enjoyed it as part of a brunch. I made the Beloved have the first slice in case it was a disaster LOL. I was so pleased it worked the first time, and I'm going to keep making different bread from the book. If you like making your own bread and have the time to do it I would recommend it. Not all the recipes are vegan but many are easily adaptable and he explains the chemical process so the right substitutes can be made. Happy baking!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Just Desserts: Fruit of the Forest Chocolate Chestnut Cake

A little while ago I made a submission to Sweets Workshop for their annual Food Fight exhibition. Sweets is a retail art gallery run by the very talented John and Emma, who actively encourage and support local artists. The Food Fight exhibition is an invitation for artists, photographers, writers etc to submit a piece of work for a calendar which has a particular food theme. It is released in time for Good Food Month and the Summer Hill Neighbourhood Feast in mid October. This year's theme was The Festive Feast, and I was trying to think of something to do. When I began thinking about feasts, my mind drifted back to favourite books from my childhood -  Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, Jill Barklam's Brambly Hedge, and the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. The Redwall series in particular has many descriptions of epic feasts enjoyed by English woodland creatures, and I thought it would be so fun to recreate some of that. My next thought was what is the feast for, and it had to be something easily recognisable. I decided on a wedding simply because of the cuteness factor! I set about making mice, squirrels, rabbits, and otters, from various fabric scraps gleaned form my grandmother's stash. She used to make toys when her sight was better and she never throws anything away! I next made various food items from polymer clay - asparagus tart, a cauldron of soup, biscuits, fruit, salad, bread etc, and a wedding cake centre piece which I then made a recipe for. I had SO much fun as I hadn't had time to do anything really creative like that for a long time, so it was a really nice way to start all over again!

A rich dense chocolate cake ( like a mud cake). Gluten, egg, and dairy free.

439gr tin unsweetened chestnut puree
2 cups hazelnut meal
2 cups very good quality dark chocolate bits
1 cup soaked dates, pureed
1 cup mixed berries (frozen is ok, thaw out and drain first)
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1.Preheat oven to 160C
2.Sift baking powder and baking soda into hazelnut meal into a large bowl.
3.Add chestnut puree and beat for a minute or two until well mixed, scraping down the sides periodically.
4.Add pureed dates, and melted chocolate and mix for another couple of minutes.
Fold in mixed berries.
5.Grease and line a 20cm round springform or loose bottom cake tin. Dollop mixture into tin, and spread evenly.
6.Bake in oven for approximately 50- 60 minutes, a light crust will have formed, and some cracks may appear on top as it will have risen ever so slightly. Allow to cool completely before removing from tin, placing it in the fridge will speed up the process. Keep it in the fridge until ready to serve. 
7.Serve in small slices with more berries and ice cream if desired.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Spring Brunch: Strawberry, Cherry, & Rhubarb Compote

There is nothing as lovely as sitting in the Spring sunshine on a mountains morning drinking tea and eating food. It's all the more lovelier when you are sharing it with great friends.

The lovely Heather had come up from Adelaide for a whirlwind visit, so we met at my house. Mrs Bean and the irrepressible Jo (check out her blog by the way, she's an awesome writer!) had been up at dawn's crack to go to the flower markets before coming up for some wedwah prep, so brunch seemed like a pretty good idea. Mr Sprout had to go and get a new alternator for his van so it was just us girls.We had banana hotcakes with strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb compote; roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes; sauteed mushrooms; toasted homemade bread; and lots of tea! It was so nice sitting on our front patio with all the camellias in bloom and the sun shining, enjoying the company of friends. Not to mention a dog and cat or two. 

The dogs of course hung around for leftovers, Captain Twiggy in particular - I'll put on my best woe face and you will give me toast!

2 punnets strawberries, hulled and halved
3 sticks rhubarb, chopped
1 cup frozen pitted cherries
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 vanilla bean
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until rhubarb cooked through and liquid is syrupy. Cool and keep in fridge. Serve over pancakes/hotcakes, cereal, scones, or ice cream!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Mac n' Cheese Nachos

My blog reader seems to be full of macaroni cheese and taco cleanse! So I thought why not join the party and put nachos and macaroni together? 

I made macaroni cheese using my go to white sauce recipe  that I use on moussaka and on occasion, lasagne. I smothered the macaroni on top of some crunchy corn chips, added some black beans, leftover tomato and mushroom sauce, chilli sauce, fresh tomato and avocado. I know it sounds like a weird nacho topping but it was so creamy, cheesy, and filling, and I didn't have to make cashew queso or quinoa chilli. Neat when you've run out of frozen containers of the stuff that you usually keep in the freezer for the times when its a table for one and it seems too hard to cook all of that! 

I really liked it, and I have a feeling the Beloved would have liked it too except he's away still and missed out. That means I'll have to make it again! 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Choco Chia Shake

I have a confession to make. I don't eat properly when I'm by myself. I eat too little, just snack, and mostly can't be bothered. It's not that I eat junk, I just don't eat enough, and I eat snacky things like vegemite on toast, or just a banana. The Beloved has gone away for a few days and so this week I'm making an effort to eat properly while the hubby isn't here. He knows I do this and will undoubtedly ask what I've eaten. So I decided I would have a look in Gorilla Food by Aaron Ash. I like raw vegan, and some stuff is truly amazing, but I mostly can't be bothered soaking, sprouting, and dehydrating something that will take four days before I can eat it. Plus, by the time its ready its more than likely I want to eat something else. If I'm going to eat raw, I like simple fast recipes or just eating au naturale -give me a whole pineapple, or half a watermelon or whatever. I like the Gorilla Food book because it has a really good combo of fast and simple, and more complex. I decided a shake would be the perfect thing, but I wanted something comforting. Let me tell you, I think The Oh My Choco Chia Shake is the best choc shake I've ever had! Serious. Vegan or otherwise. And my gut is thanking me for it, even better! It's rich and creamy thanks to some cashews (which I didn't have to soak- phew!), not overly sweet (even better, my face isn't going to tingle from a sugar rush), and I got two servings of fruit and a protein boost (ha, its a complete meal bonus points!) It's like drinking a chocolate pudding its so velvety and delicious. If you are going to buy a raw vegan uncook book I would definitely recommend this one simply because of its variety and intensely flavoured recipes. I'll be making this shake over and over again I know!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Strawberry & Grapefruit Smoothie

I'm taking pictures from my phone today so I apologise for the not so great photo and somewhat boring post. Thursdays have recently become the day I spend volunteering at  Greyhound Rescue. They are pretty full at the moment, due to the bushfires earlier in the week some had to be evacuated from another kennel, so lots of dogs to walk today! Being hot weather I don't really feel like eating much but wanted to keep hydrated. I blended 500ml water with a whole punnet of strawberries, two pink grapefruit and an orange. I really don't understand these people who blather on about not eating fruit because its full of sugar and it will make you fat...blah blah blah...while they simultaneously stuff their gobs with a piece of poor dead cow. Give me fruit any day! Keeps me full and hydrated, and gives me lots of energy for all that walking! Try walking two or three greyhounds at once desperate for a pee and you'll know what I mean. Arm muscle people!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chocolate Chai

I can't vouch for the authenticity of this at all. But then, I'm not claiming it to be authentic, it has chocolate in it. No doubt Haviwah and Winnie can vouch for a much more authentic recipe (you can check out their adventures here). And who knows, maybe eventually we will make our way over to India for our much belated honeymoon and they can actually make me a real cup :)

Ok, so all you chai die hards are probably groaning or throwing your hands up in horror. Or not. Maybe you might give this a try – it isn’t one of those crappy syrups after all, this is made with real spices!
I am quite fond of chai, it’s a nice little pick me up on a cold afternoon or evening. Or, when you are still in a funk over a certain recent election, but you don’t want to take up the bottle to cope for the next three years. Ahem.  

I used Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea blend (forever known in our house as Kev) as it a is a full bodied strong tea which I believe is the basis for a good cuppa chai. I also used couverture dark chocolate bits, but you could use any decent quality dairy free chocolate and grate it instead. Some people like to make chai half water half milk, but I personally like this chocolate one made only with milk. I use Bonsoy at is very rich and creamy which seems to carry the spices really well. I like mine very gingery, so feel free to adjust spices to suit your taste.
125gr loose leaf Kev (or another strong tea)
2/3 cup dark chocolate bits
¼ cup ground cinnamon
½ cup ginger powder
¼ cup crushed cardamom pods
¼ cup ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground coriander

Mix all ingredients together and keep in a tightly sealed container.
To make the chai, use 2 heaped  teaspoons of the mix per 250ml non dairy milk, bring to the boil, and simmer for a couple of minutes, to allow chocolate to melt.  Let stand for five minutes, strain and serve. Add sugar to taste.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Avocado & Pink Grapefruit Bruschetta with Blue Lentils

This is a really simple post today, I'm a bit distracted this afternoon as we have some pretty serious bushfires around Sydney I've been keeping an eye on this afternoon (the Beloved is working in Sydney today). My mind isn't really focused enough to be doing anything really fiddly. Last night, as I took the hounds out  before bed, I felt the warm north westerly winds picking up so I didn't have to put on my jacket. We've had some pretty warm weather the last few weeks, unusually warm for this early in Spring, especially for the mountains.  The thought fleeted across my mind that we could be due for a pretty bad fire season this summer. It must have been some kind of premonition because already we've got some pretty bad fires burning this afternoon halfway down the mountain and in some other areas in Sydney's outer west. It seems ridiculous that last MoFo I was posting about snow and today I'm writing about fire.

So here is my easy peasy lunch. I've been eating lots of pink grapefruit lately because they are so cheap, and I like them because they aren't quite so sour as the yellow ones. The avocado gives a nice buttery contrast to the sharpness of the fruit, and the blue lentils give a nice earthy punch. I cooked 1/4 cup blue lentils in some salted water, drained and set aside while I cut up the fruit and grilled the sourdough. I put some homegrown rocket on top of the toast, and scattered everything else over the top, drizzled with some garlic infused oil and some cracked black pepper. Voila! 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Pom Pom Sushi

Last year I bought Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh. If you like Japanese cuisine but are always trying to work out what is and isn't vegan then I highly recommend this book. I bought it once again because I was suckered in by the beautiful photography and mouthwatering descriptions, but also because I hadn't come across a specifically vegan Japanese cookbook before.  I've made a few things from it and it is always delicious. The Beloved has grown fond of sushi lately, so for dinner I've made some red and white miso soup, and Pom Pom Sushi that looks so freakin' cute! They are really easy to make, so if you have never tried making your own sushi rolls, or you have tried and failed, have a crack at these. The idea is that you use up left over bits and pieces and wrap them around the balls of sushi rice. I had bok choi leaves, carrot, avocado, mushrooms, pickled ginger, capsicum, and some red lettuce which I used for mine. I think the more colours you have the prettier it is! 

Just Desserts: Choc Hazelnut & Almond Vanilla Pancakes with Drunken Strawberries

Some good old comfort food is needed this weekend, and so we thought we would indulge with some chocolate hazelnut and almond vanilla pancakes. These guys are the British/Aussie style pancake which is quite thin (almost as thin as a crepe), not the fluffy US style which we would traditionally call a pikelet or drop scone. Spread them with avocado choc mousse and roll them up, or serve plain with the strawberries and some sweet almond cream. 

Chocolate Batter
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
pinch salt

Vanilla Batter
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup water
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch salt

1.Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed, and stand aside for an hour.

2.While the batter is standing, slice some strawberries and pour your liqueur of choice over them, just enough to coat ( I personally like frangelico with the choc pancakes).

3.Check your batter - the mixture will have thickened, so whip in a tablespoon of water at a time to get a thinner batter, the consistency of cream.

4.On medium heat in a lightly greased frypan, pour enough mixture in to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Wait until edges begin to curl slightly and air bubbles appear, and flip over.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Vegan Devils on Horseback or, an Appetiser for Politicians

I am so ashamed. Tomorrow is Election Day here, and based on the polls, Tony Abbott is about to become the 28th Prime Minister of Australia.If you don't fancy listening to a bit of a political rant friends, then scroll down to the recipe.

I feel ashamed that my fellow countrymen - so disillusioned and fed up with the current government's internal feuds and backflips on policies- feel they have no choice but to vote for a narrow minded man who leads a greedy selfish party that wants to turn us into a greedy selfish nation. Get ready for a 4.5 billion dollar cut to foreign aid so you can have more roads. Asylum seekers - forget it Tony is going to stop the boats. Get ready for an apology to the Indonesian government for the Gillard government halting live export in 2011 (in response to cruelty committed to Australian livestock). Get ready for World Heritage listed areas to be delisted. Climate change reduction targets spending? Forget it. Renewable energy investment - you can forget that too. But that's ok, because Australians will have more roads to drive on (that's room for more cars and more pollution), and there will be more people around as well, because with Tony's paid parental leave scheme women will be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen doing the ironing where they belong. And since there will be more women at home, that's presumably how Tony is going to create more jobs. And while we're on the subject of women, apparently abortions are just "the easy way out". Yeah. This is the man that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched her famous misogynist speech on last year. And if you're gay, don't expect marriage equality to be on Tony's agenda. You can forget about an Independent Office for Animals too - because that's Kev's list, not Tony's. I am ashamed that a man who calls himself a Christian can be so narrow minded and selfish, and I feel ashamed that being a Christian myself he gives everyone else the idea we are all like that. It makes me want to cry in angry frustration. People don't realise it is not one or the other. There are other smaller parties and independents that if elected can prevent Tony from being given a blank cheque to get his bills through Parliament quicker than a bride takes off her nightie. So please fellow Aussies, don't waste your vote. Compulsory it might be, wasted it ain't.

So enough of the ranting. I want to have a bit of light heartedness today on Election Eve. I'll wipe my nose, dry my eyes and do some cooking.

This post is dedicated to you Tony - how about some Devils on Horseback?  And every time I stab a toothpick through a date Tony, I'll think of you ;)

Traditional devils on horseback are usually prunes or dates stuffes with cheese and wrapped with bacon. I've veganised them by stuffing dates with cashew cheese and wrapping them with eggplant.

And never fear, amongst all the devils you will always find an angel. Swap the dates for apricots and you can have some Angels on Horseback instead.

20 pitted dried dates (or apricots if you prefer the angels)
20 teaspoons cashew cheese
20 strips chargrilled eggplant
white wine (optional)
cracked black pepper

1. Soak the dates in hot water for a few minutes to soften, and then take out and pat dry.
2. Gently open up the dates - if they are already pitted they probably are already split down one side, just reopen it, or use a sharp knife.
3. Put a scant teaspoon of cashew cheese in the middle of the opened date, and push sides together slightly.
4. Wrap the filled date with a strip of eggplant and secure with a toothpick.
5. Place on an oven tray, sprinkle some white wine over the top, and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes. if you don't want to bake them, they are just as tasty unbaked. Top with some fresh cracked black pepper and serve.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Baked Roasted Nori Cakes

I was inspired by a recipe in Caribbean Vegan that uses eggplant and roasted nori to make a type of “fish” cake. The recipe in the book is more of a fritter, as it uses plenty of flour and is deep fried. I liked the idea of using nori to give a sea taste, but I am a little loathe to call vegan dishes after their meaty counterparts as it can give the wrong impression. To the best of my memory, these taste nothing like fish cakes. They are however, utterly yummy and I will make them again. They are more likely to fall apart while very hot, but hold together ok when allowed to cool a bit. Did I mention they are also gluten free!

Makes aproximately 8 cakes

2 lebanese eggplant, diced
3 nori sheets, torn into pieces
1 350gr block firm tofu
1 tsp hot chilli sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced lemongrass
Pinch sea salt
1 onion
Cornflake crumbs

1.Dice the onion and eggplant and sauté in a little oil until onion is translucent. Set aside.
2.In a large bowl, mash the tofu, and add salt, lemongrass, ginger, and chilli sauce.
3.Tear the nori sheets into small pieces and add to the tofu mixture.
4.Add the onion and eggplant, and stir well to combine. You can leave the mixture in the fridge until ready to use at this point.
5.Using a 1/3 cup to scoop mixture, firm down, and gently tap out onto the cornflake crumbs. Toss crumbs over the cake and around the sides, and place gently onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. If they fall apart a bit, just gently press back together.

6.Bake in a 180C oven for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing from tray.

Vegan Potato Slaw

Whenever I think of coleslaw I think of my friend Phil over at Adventureland Games. I remember making a slaw for a tiki night once and he declared he could swim in a pool of it (perhaps taking a mouthful with each stroke)! Potato slaw and coleslaw are one of those things that everyone loves at a BBQ but they are ridiculously high in kilojoules and mayonnaise. I decided to merge the two with a far healthier, and vegan dressing. Many of the ingredients came out of my garden which made it easier just to use a little of this and that, and I ended up with four generous serves.  You can use whatever greens you like, I just have all of these in the veg patch.

6 desiree potatoes, quartered, and cooked, skin on
3 thin slices of fennel, chopped fine
1 large carrot grated
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup mixed greens shredded – I used red Russian kale, rocket, and Chinese mustard
1 stalk celery finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped leek
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons tahini
½ avocado
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Juice and rind of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup water
Pinch sea salt
Plenty of cracked black pepper

Boil the potatoes until just cooked and still firm, and rinse in plenty of cold water. Set aside.
Prepare all other salad ingredients and toss together in a bowl with the cold potato.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until well mixed. Toss through potato slaw and serve.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Pantry Staple: Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

I like making my own pantry staples. It's often much cheaper to make your own (especially if its in bulk) than to buy. I also then know exactly what goes into it. The smell filled the entire house while I made this, it felt like a nice homey housewifey sort of thing to do. All I needed was a vintage apron, a flowery frock, and some heels. Yeah right. If the Beloved came home to find me dressed like that he probably would have thought he'd walked into the wrong house. So I just wore the vintage apron over some regular clothes :) 

If you keep the vinegar bottle you can wash it out and reuse it to keep your Worcestershire sauce in, which is not only thrifty but a good way to reuse something rather than chucking it out or recycling it. I won't lie to you, this is in no way an authentic sauce, but its a pretty good approximation and I just know the Beloved will like slathering it over vegie snags and mash. The capers stand in for the salty anchovies, and I decided to put in pomegranate molasses as a sweet sour stand in for tamarind paste ( I don't have anything against tamarind, I just thought I'd give it a miss). Don't use the cheap nasty artificially coloured brown vinegar - it's just not the same! The flavour will get better as it stores, but its perfectly ok to use straight away. You could even make a huge batch of it and bottle it for Christmas presents. Keep your beer bottles and wash them out, buy some new caps and you're away. 

This isn't gluten free, but if you wanted a gluten free version you could just use all apple cider vinegar.

750ml malt vinegar
250ml apple cider vinegar
280gr jar plum jam
1 tablespoon capers
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup black strap molasses
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 brown onion, chopped roughly
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp mixed spice
4 crushed cardamon pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
pinch sea salt flakes
1 tablespoon sunflower oil for frying

1.In a large heavy based saucepan, saute onions and garlic and salt in oil for a few minutes until soft.
2. Add all spices and stir for a minute to release their flavour and aroma. 
3.Add vinegars, molasses, and jam, and simmer for 45 minutes with a lid on (this limits evaporation). 
4. Turn off heat and allow to cool for about half an hour. Strain through a sieve and then funnel into your reserved bottle - you should end up with approximately 750ml. 

Cookbook Mondays: Coffee & Cocoa Cereal

I decided to keep going with Cookbook Mondays during MoFo because I would really like to keep this habit! The Beloved really wanted me to have a go at making Simon Bryant's Coffee & Cocoa Cereal from Vegies so since I was busy with coffee and chocolate yesterday I thought it would be good to make use of the coffee shots while he was making them. The only thing non vegan in the recipe was honey, so I substituted rice syrup and it was fine. I couldn't get hold of wattleseed but I don't think it made a huge difference. I would like to try it with the wattleseed when I order some online. It's not overly sweet, which is good because I don't like really sweet cereal.

This recipe has no less than eight - yes EIGHT shots of coffee. The Beloved loves coffee, so it suits him to a tee, but if it were for me I would make it with far less! Simon says it should take a couple of hours in the oven to dry, it took about three.  Next time I'll make it in the dehydrator and leave it over night so I don't have to keep checking it. Definitely a gourmet breakfast, but if you are a coffee lover you will adore it! 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Just Desserts: Espresso Chocolate Brulee Cheesecake

Well, it's the first day of MoFo, the first day of Spring, and Father's Day too if you're in the land Down Under. We try to be healthy during the week, but weekends are for treats. And this is a treat! Since we're celebrating Father's Day I decided to make a cake especially for the Beloved. My own dad is far away in Tasmania so I can't make a cake for him. But, just because we're child free doesn't mean we're kid free...there is a lot of furry and feathery kids in this house. My husband is a very patient man, one of the most patient people I know. When we first got married, we had one cat. Seven years later and we have four cats, two dogs, four chickens and a duck. So I think it only fair to include my husband on father's day, he takes his fair share of the feeding; the getting up in the (literally) wee hours to let the dogs out for a wizz; the cleaning up of spew, poo, and pee; the walks and the cuddles; the breaking up of spats; and the diminished room on the couch and on the bed. So here is his reward!

I made the cheesecake in two mini springform tins because there is no way we could eat an entire cheesecake, and we are trying to be good the rest of the week...

For the Crust
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/2 cup plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
50gr grated copha
50gr margarine
2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons margarine extra, melted

For the Filling
250gr cream cheese
1/2 cup dark chocolate bits
1 shot espresso
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca starch

For the Topping
250 gr cream cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar
2- 3 tablespoons frangelico (up to you how boozy you want it)
1 vanilla bean, scraped

Extra sugar for brulee, and strawberries to serve

1.In a bowl, rub together all crust ingredients except extra maragarine until it resembles cookie dough. 2.Spread out in lumps on a lined baking tray and bake at 180C for approximately 12 minutes.
3.Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then crumble into coarse crumbs and mix in melted margarine.
4.Line the bottom of the springform tins with baking paper, and grease sides and bottom. Press crumbs on bottom and up sides to form the crust (it won't be too thick). Place into fridge to set while making filling.
5. Melt chocolate in espresso and add sugar.
6. Beat together all filling ingredients until well mixed, scraping down the sides occasionally.
7. Fill the shells 3/4 the way up and bake in 180C oven for 20 minutes. You will have a bit of leftover filling but that's ok! Remove and put into the fridge to cool and set.
8. Make the filling by whipping all ingredients together until fluffy. Spread over the top of the cooled cheesecake to reach the top (you will have leftovers of this too).
9. Put into the fridge to set for a couple of hours
10 To brulee, sprinkle granulated sugar over the top, and using a blow torch, torch in circular motions until sugar is melted and caramelised.

Serve with fresh strawberries!