Satay sauce

It is much better to use salt-free peanut butter to prepare your own satay sauce.

SheWhoMustbeFed provides the household with home made nut butters – cashew and peanut being the staples with the occasional foray into macadamia. To make nut butter, fresh nuts are simply lightly roasted and then they are introduced to The Champion. The Champion is what you get when you cross a bench mounted grinder with a kitchen tool. Its easy to imagine The Champion being the result of Tim Taylor from the TV show Home Improvement being asked to design a new food processor.

In the absence of your own home made peanut butter, salt free peanut butter can be generally found in health food stores, if you can find one that hasn’t been overrun with body building supplements that is!

Needing to have (suggested measurements are just that…suggestions. You have to fiddle a bit to get the right consistency)….

  • 3/4 cup of lightly roasted peanuts. Crush in a mortar and pestle and reserve
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari
  • A few thin slices of onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 hot chilli
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of peanut oil (or coconut oil) – for frying the onion and garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil – for flavouring
  • Water

To do…

  • Boil the kettle, and dissolve the peanut butter in a cup of water. It doesn’t have to completely dissolve but it helps to get it as pre-dissolved as possible
  • Meanwhile, in a small pan over a low flame…
  • Lightly sauté the onion, garlic and cumin. If these at all burn, discard and start again as they really need to be very lightly cooked
  • Add the dissolved peanut butter, tamari, and the whole chilli (the chilli is meant to add a little heat, and then be fished out before serving). Add up to an extra cup of water to help thin the mixture
  • Simmer lightly for a few minutes, do not allow to boil. Keep an eye on the sauce and stir regularly as it will tend to stick to the pan easily
  • Remove the chilli. Add the coconut cream and the sesame oil. This will take the heat off the sauce so bring it back to a simmer.
  • As soon as it simmers again, add the reserved crushed peanuts and serve

Stuffing

Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing. Though it is a fair and reasonable question to pose whether Stuffing is Stuffing if it isn’t stuffed up the vent* of a dead chicken/turkey? One reasonable answer is that the name is still appropriate because after you’ve gorged on the meal it is you who feels stuffed. This was made on the afternoon of the day before Christmas, simply because it could be and thus gave me one less thing to do in the kitchen on The Day. But if you want to sagely nod and claim that doing so will allow “the flavours to stew, intensify and gain complexity” go right ahead..

Ingredients…

  • As luck would have it, a loaf of homemade wholemeal bread had just been finished leaving only the two end crusts from the loaf. Each of these was a fairly thick slice. So…two end slices of bread.
  • 6 or so thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium, firm mushroom
  • 1/4 cup of almonds, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of marinated black olives
  • 2 teaspoons of light miso
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Put the kettle onto boil…

Méthode de la fabrication bourrant…

  • Breadcrumb the bread slices. In my case, they were torn into medium size pieces and then “wizzed” using the ever useful Bamix.
  • Do the same for the mushroom and the olives.
  • Combine these with all other dry ingredients into a bowl
  • Dissolve the miso and tomato paste in about 1/2 cup of boiled water, and add to the mix
  • Add the olive oil, and mix thoroughly
  • Place mixture into an appropriately sized and lidded baking dish, squeezing down as you do so to ensure a tight fill.
  • Pour in additional boiled water to about the halfway level (this was easy in my case as the baking dish was glass so I could see the level).
  • Bake, covered for about 45 minutes in a hot oven.

* “Vent” is the official name for the common opening that birds have, that is used for reproduction, and for the evacuation of stools and urine.

Christmas Gravy

“You are making gravy aren’t you?”…..spoke SheWhoMustBeFed about five minutes before everything else was about to be served for Christmas Dinner. Blinking innocently, the love of my life informed me that “I’ve told everyone you’re making gravy”, which struck me as being an odd thing to feel the need to drop into conversation with family and friends on the run up to Christmas. Note to self: should buy She WhoMustBeFed a copy of “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills — and Leave a Positive Impression!” by Debra Fine for her birthday.

And so…to the gravy…

Ingredients…

  • Cornflour
  • Dark miso
  • The glass of red wine you’d just poured yourself to drink
  • Two or three thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme)
  • Ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Olive oil

Putting it all together quick enough that the rest of the meal doesn’t burn…

  1. Smile sweetly at SheWhoMustBeFed and say “Of course I’m making gravy dear…”
  2. Put the kettle on to boil. Once boiled, fill the gravy pitcher with hot water to warm it up
  3. In a small saucepan, over a low flame…
  4. Lightly saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of oil, together with the pepper
  5. Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of cornflour, stir out any lumps
  6. Return to the heat and add all other ingredients
  7. Add about one cup of boiled water
  8. Stir; taking care the miso dissolves thoroughly
  9. If not thick enough for your taste; remove a tablespoon of the gravy and in a cup, mix in another teaspoon or so of cornflour. Once mixed to an even paste, stir into the pan.

Christmas 2008

That’s that then. Only 363 sleeps until Christmas. And if there are any stores actually left trading come next Christmas (that haven’t gone bankrupt) we can again wrap a collection of gifts under the tree and contribute our own little way to the engine of economic consumption. Bless you all and especially the little darling loinfruits, and to paraphrase Dear Queen Lizzie – “Blessed are those who sacrifice a moment of their wealthy days and give something to the common people, standing in their unwashed millions beyond the castle walls”.

Thus directed by the only person who’s effigy jingles disturbingly near my groin when I have a pocketful of change, it is my pleasure to share the recipes for the two most important parts of the Christmas meal; The Gravy and The Stuffing. Now…get yourself off to the 90% Off Boxing Day sales before the last store closes…forever.

PS. For Christmas SheWhoMustBeFed gave me a set of digital kitchen scales. Accurate to 1 gram and able to be “zeroed” at any weight these are a boon to breadmaking as they mean all ingredients including liquids can be accurately measured by weight

Being Grateful

Anyone with Loinfruit will either have gone through, or have still ahead of them the joyous task of nagging them to say “Please” and “Thank you”. Those simple, oft neglected words in whose absence the ire of parents rises, and which are perhaps the simplest defining difference between a child (and ultimately an adult) who is considered polite and one who is not. At some point as Loinfruit learn to speak, and more importantly to take part in communication we make all this effort to teach them how to communicate thanks…and then we get older ourselves and we…errrrr….forget.

During our years living in Disneyland (a.k.a. The USA) we made a great many friends. One night we were invited to to dinner by our friends Jill and Sharon, and as we sat down for dinner around the table with their two Loinfruit they pulled out a book and asked us to read a blessing. Now, SheWhoMustBeFed and The VegHead could not be described as Attendees of Church in our wildest dreams. I admit in fact to being somewhat taken aback, though the flow is to go with in style and grace as far as I am concerned.

Sometimes lessons are not attended. Sometimes they happen. A copy of the book I was handed that night has since become a much thumbed one in our own dining room; A Grateful Heart edited by M. J. Ryan – “Daily blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to The Beatles.”

My lesson that night as I sat down to share a meal with our friends is that we sometimes shun ritual because we associate it overly with something else that we choose to not be be a part of our lives. In this case the ritual of expressing gratitude for the food we were about to eat, and appreciation for the effort and love that had gone into all stages of its creation was avoided; as saying “Grace” was associated in my mind with a religious blessing.

It has since become a ritual for us to read a blessing as we sit down together for dinner, or sometimes as the mood requires to just make something up. That simple act is a moment of pause and reflection between the rush of the day and the (enjoyable) effort of cooking a meal, and the meal itself.

Along the way we have also been reminded of a simple truth – that as we get older we too often forget to express our thanks to those in our lives for even the simplest of acts that they do for us, and that they undertake in an everyday manner to contribute to life and household. We forget to say “please” and “thank you” even as we teach our Loinfruit to do the same. It is almost a cliche that the reason expressed for unhappiness in a relationship is that one party “takes the other for granted”. Translation: “You don’t notice all the things I do for you and you never say thanks – therefore you don’t love me anymore”. Saying “thank you” isn’t the answer to life, but it is interesting in a simple and fundamental way that we think it important to teach Loinfruit the importance of those words.

To quote from the Grateful Heart…

As the sun illuminates
the moon and the stars
so let us illuminate
one another
-Anonymous

Thanks for reading.

Poor old brussel sprouts

It must be sad being the vegetable that everyone loves to detest. Lets face it, children hate brussel sprouts even more than they hate broccoli, even more than they hate cleaning their rooms, or kissing the cheek of their creepy Aunt Edith who smells unsettlingly of urine.

Just maybe though, as you get older you get a taste for this little member of the brassica family. December in England is the time of year when fresh, seasonal and locally grown sprouts can be found in the farmer’s markets. Sprouts are best bought still on the stem – and lets face it they are one of the wackiest looking plants on the planet. For that reason alone it deserves a little respect. The sprouts grow directly off the woody stem, and the whole thing is then crowned by a large, loosely bundled mega-sprout on the top.

And here’s THE THING. That mega-sprout on top is the best bit. Not only does it’s presence herald a truly fresh sprout stem, but it is also lip smackingly good to eat. Underneath it will be surrounded by little cute sprouts; cut it off the stem at this point and steam the whole head. Wash any dirt from amongst the leaves first.

OK – you have to like brussel sprouts to begin with enjoy this. But life isn’t just oranges and bananas. Live a little…

Bolognese sauce

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is a National Security Agency plot to make everyone think that veg*ism is blah. Resist with every cell of your being. Tempeh on the other hand is a traditional soya product harking from Indonesia. Grated, it fulfills the role of minced meat with gusto and verve. If the NSA still has control of your mind then I suppose you will be tempted to use TVP in this recipe. It would work however your life will be a little less fulfilling and you will be less likely to be popular with random strangers. Your decision…

Ingredients..

  • 1 packet of tempeh – grated
  • 1 medium carrot – grated
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes if you have to)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small aubergine, cubed; OR equivalent volume of chopped mushrooms; OR both if you’re a gutsy pig
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of miso paste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh whole pepper corns (don’t substitute dried ones – must be fresh or if you don’t have them don’t use them)
  • 1 ½ cups of red wine; plus a glass for you – You’re Worth It!
  • Fresh picked herbs – chopped; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, 3 bay leaves
  • Optional – a small hot, red chilli, chopped

Method…

  • Lightly sauté onions in a truly excessive amount of olive oil until clear
  • Add garlic, and chillies and sauté for an additional minute; low heat
  • Add tempeh and sauté for an additional minute. Be careful it doesn’t stick
  • Dissolve tomato and miso pastes in over medium heat with about half a cup of water. Add red wine and chopped tomatoes
  • Once tomatoes have released some of their liquid, add all remaining ingredients
  • Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes – covered. If it looks a little dry, add more water – you can alway reduce it.

Serve with your favourite pasta

Organic versus Fairtrade versus Local

In the VegHead kitchen we try to buy and grow organic produce. Certainly our own little veggie patch has remained chemical free for the six years we’ve been improving the soil and growing in it. Thankfully, organic produce has become a lot more common over the last 15+ years and is now available outside of the small, specialised shops.

Meanwhile, a recognition has grown amongst the buying public of the need to also protect and provide for the economic and social sustainability of the growers themselves. Both the VegHead and SheWhoMustBeFed are very pleased and supportive of efforts to provide fair payment to the growers and harvesters of the produce we buy, as well as the stewards of the land they grow their produce on. So the Fairtrade branding was welcomed and recognised early on by both of us.

Meanwhile, there is now a recognition growing in the general buying public of the importance of buying local produce. Both in economic and environmental terms it is preferential to buy produce that has been grown – in season – from a “local area”. Local generally meaning to something between the 10 and 20 mile radius of “here” (insert a flag in the ground at the appropriate Longitude and Latitude).

But here’s my conundrum…

We all have our own reasons for reading the label, for being conscious of the providence of our food, for choosing to eat what we do and for of us who do so, for choosing to pursue a vegan or vegetarian diet. It isn’t my desire here to begin to explore the relative merits (or otherwise) of the logic behind those various decisions, nor to debate anyone or convince them to change their views. For The VegHead, my own primary motivation for choosing to follow a vegan diet has always been environmental concerns (same too for my efforts to source organic produce, and to source local produce). The environmental footprint of a vegan diet is measurably smaller than an animal protein based diet – all other things being equal.

My challenge is; given that that is my (own personal) motivation….when is it better from an environmental footprint perspective to NOT be vegan but focus on organic and local produce instead. Is it better from an environmental point of view to eat an organic egg from a free range chicken, sourced from the farm next door, than eat say a block of tofu that has been manufactured 1000 miles away?

I don’t know the answer to that. A unified and transparent balanced scorecard system that considered the factors of “local” versus “fairtrade” versus “organic” would be extremely useful.

And on the day I see one of those….I’ll just as likely to see the a black, homosexual Pope.

Suggestions welcome..

Sesame beetroot stems

Green eggs and ham.
Fred and Ginger.
Imperialism and the industrial military complex.
Beetroot and sesame.

Some things in the universe are just natural pairings.

Our options to explore these pairings are naturally limited. Don’t eat eggs or ham, Fred and Ginger are worm food, and trying the bomb the world into peace is misguided in the VegHead’s humble opinion. That leaves us with beetroot and sesame, which is hardly a poor choice…

This is sufficient to make a side dish for two. If you want to extend it and have no more stems to hand, add some grated raw beetroot, or some diced cooked beetroot (you probably have the fresh stems because you just bought a clutch of fresh beetroot, after all).

Needing to have…

  • Stems and leaves from 4+ fresh beetroots
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds; roasted
  • 2 tablespoons of light tahini
  • 1 teaspoon of tamari
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Needing to do…

  • Wash the stems and leaves; discarding any cruddy bits
  • Chop the stems into lengths of approximately 5cms
  • Chop the leaves
  • Blanch the stems in a covered pot in a very small amount of water. After a minute or so add the leaves (basically the leaves take a little less time than the stems do to cook – once you’ve done this once you’ll get a feel for it). Add the tamari at the same time.
  • The leaves will cook very quickly. Do not allow to boil dry. There should be a small amount of liquid left by the time the leaves are blanched.
  • Remove from the heat and stir through the tahini, the sesame oil and the sesame seeds.
  • Serve immediately

Why you can’t beat a good beet root

When I was a lad, beetroot came into the house ready made. Golden Circle was the brand of choice according to my mother, if I recall correctly. Mostly pre-sliced, with the occasional foray into the unsliced, baby beet variety. Summer would be heralded with the purchase of tins of cubed beetroot. Regardless of the shape of their contents they all tasted the same. For years I assumed beetroot was a salty purple thing, with a natural sharp vinegary bite. The closest it ever got to hot food was as an option on a shop bought hamburger (authentic “Fish and Chip/Burger bars” in Australia still today give the option of a slice of pineapple or a slice of beetroot on the burger). It was certainly never served as a vegetable along with dinner.

Tinned beetroot is no longer welcome in the VegHead’s kitchen. Whether sliced or cube or whole, it is all bought fresh and home cooked. For salad beetroot, use Apple Cider Vinegar as it is significantly less “vinegary” than wine vinegars and will therefore not dominate the flavour. Slice off the stems and thoroughly scrub all dirt from the ball of the root with a brush and water. Boil (or pressure cook) until tender in a large pot of water. Once cooked, the skin will simply slide off in your hand under cold water. Preserve in the same water you cooked the beet root in, together with a teaspoon of sea salt. Once cooled, add a tablespoon of vinegar.

Beetroot has now made its way onto the dinner plate in a number of ways; roasted, stir fried, lending its purple majesty to curries. Raw it is grated into salads and sandwiches; juiced together with carrots and celery it is a vivid liver detoxing wonder.

Every part of the beetroot plant is edible. The leaves can be used as an alternative to spinach or kale. The leaf stems can be steamed or stir fried.

How to choose beetroot:

  • always choose beetroot that still has the stems and leaves attached. When fresh the stems are firm and crispy like fresh celery. If they have been cut off it is a sure sign that the beetroot is old enough for the stems to have gone all flippy floppy.
  • in the absence of stems, choose beetroots that are as hard as possible. The flesh will soften with age. If they have give when pressed with a finger – put them back and move on.
  • small beetroots are better than huge beetroots

Boddington Casserole

Boddington is an English beer with a creamy head and smooth body that can purchased in a widget enabled can. According to beer historians, Boddingtons has been around for over 200 years, and is now sold in over 30 countries worldwide.

To quote one online review: “Boddingtons is not the most complex or interesting English bitter, but a great session beer nonetheless. This is a pleasant, easy drinking, nicely satisfying, everyday beer. With an alcohol content of 3.8%ABV, it’s a beer that can be drunk in quantity on a night at the local without re-arranging your brain cells drastically. It’s also a good thirst quencher, a refreshing pint that calls for another and another and maybe just one more after that and then….”

Well there you have it, which must explain why there was a single can of it that has been sitting in the fridge for months. Must have been waiting for a “session” to occur on the calendar. Instead, it went into this simple and hearty casserole.

What you need..

  • 1 can of Boddingtons
  • 10 brussel sprouts
  • 4 medium potatoes; halved
  • 1 small onion; roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 cup of cooked black beans
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet, light miso
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns. Crush with a mortar and pestle.
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Corn flour (for thickening the sauce)

What to do..

  • Combine all ingredients except the corn flour into a lidded casserole dish. Try to keep the sprouts submerged or they may dry out during cooking
  • Bake in a moderate oven for about an hour
  • Remove from oven. Spoon out a small amount of the liquid and dissolve about 1 teaspoon of corn flour in it. Using a fork, mix until an even, light paste forms. Spoon out as much of the remaining liquid from the casserole as possible and add to this mix, stirring thoroughly to ensure an even consistency.
  • Return the (now thickened) sauce back to the casserole, and stir until evenly distributed
  • Return to the oven and bake for an additional five minutes on low

Serve with steamed vegetables of your choice.

The kitchen and the garden

Regardless of how and why you celebrate Christmas – including the statistically likely chance that you do not – there is something about this time of the year that makes life busier that a Jackson Pollock painting in a blender. Its been nearly five days of relentless frost in LizzieLand which means that heading out the door requires a few extra minutes to slip into the thermals, don hat, scarf, gloves and jacket. Contrast that to summer when you can slip out the door as soon as you’ve pulled on a pair of yellow budgie holders and it’s easy to see where the time goes.

SheWhoMustBeFed has the unenviable task of dropping the larger of the loinfruit to school, which unfortunately in these climatic end times is a vehicular exercise. No public transport alternatives exist that would take less than 90 minutes and two changes and it takes me at least 45 minutes to cycle to the school, never mind what it would take a loinfruit of the shorter legged variety to ride. And…no closer schools. So when Jack Frost has been busy we can also add another few minutes to preparation time to allow for the scraping of car windows before heading off. The VegHead has the more invigorating task of dropping off the Lesser Loinfruit to his school, which is a ten minute cycle away. There’s nothing like the rush of -2c air past the earholes first thing in the morning to blow away any vestigial memories of sleepy cuddles under the body warm blankets.

Back home again this morning by ten past nine, to slop out the kitchen scraps into the compost and clean up the kitchen from the morning’s whirlwind of busy-ness. This is stage one in the compost making in what is a “3 bin” method. Positioned out of sight but not too far from the kitchen door is a standard galvanised iron domestic rubbish bin. Holes have been punched in the base with an axe to allow for excess liquid to drain – it sits straight onto the ground and so provides a ready source of food for the worms. All kitchen scraps go into this, plus the occasional unbleached paper bag torn into pieces.

About the only organic kitchen waste that doesn’t go in are pumpkin seeds. The little bastards survive even the most effective of compost heaps and hundreds of pale pumpkin seedlings will emerge the next summer from the composted soil. They take over the tomatoes and bully the basil – so it’s into the rubbish with them. So too for avocado skins and seeds, which just never break down.

The galvanised iron bin was chosen as it is rodent proof and, having a base, can be carried over to the second stage bin when full. Admittedly by the time its full it’s normally turned into an odiferously dense anaerobic wonder that requires two people to carry its weight down the garden to the second bin. This is a task that SheWhoMustBeFed loathes, but helps with in that cheerfully grudging manner that is a sure sign of a lifelong and deathbed partner.

The second stage bin is an open bottom composting bin and it is here that true aerobic and wormful decay occurs – usually helped along with a handful of an organic compost-starting enzyme. Six to eight weeks later the second stage bin has composted to a sweet smelling loam. It is shovelled into the third bin, which is one of those tumble jobs. Here it is stored until needed on the garden, and the cycle begins again.

In five years this compost has added about 10cms of organic material across the approximately 25 square metre veggie patch. Helping to turn what was very dense and clayey clod into a productive and crumbly home for a million worms and in spring, the season’s seeds.

The life and love in the kitchen thus extends both directly into the very essence of our bodies through the food we prepare and share, and also back into the earth as food for the plants that provide some of the basic ingredients we use. We feel the wheels turn of the infinite regenerative cycles that keep life sustained and appreciate our place within them. Existing not as a bystander, but as a singular, interwoven and contributory component of the web.

Golden cous-cous

Food trivia: the name “cous-cous” is a wonderful example of a circular onomatopoeia. Cous-cous is traditionally cooked in a Couscousier – which is basically a fancy cous-cous steamer. As the couscousier cooks the cous-cous (try saying that after a few drinks) the sound of the steam escaping makes a “cous” sound, lifting the lid off the pan. The lid repeatedly lifts and falls “cous….cous…cous…cous…”. Thus the couscousier gets its name from the cous sound, which gives its name to the cous-cous, which is cooked in the couscousier.

But not in my kitchen it doesn’t, as the VegHead doesn’t own a couscousier. On other occasions a standard two level vegetable steaming pan has sufficed, with the top pan lined with a light cotton cloth. This recipe however doesn’t use that method of cooking cous-cous at all, which just goes to illustrate that random ramblings into obscure kitchen lore don’t necessarily have anything to do with the recipe that follows.

Ingredients:

  • One dry cup of “quick” cous-cous – which is the way most people will buy it. According to the packet I buy, this is meant to be prepared by simply adding an equal quantity of boiled water and allowing it to sit in a covered bowl for five minutes. Ignore that instruction; the manufacturers don’t know what the hell they’re talking about…
  • Two cups of cold water
  • One cup of chopped broccoli florets
  • A few fine slices of onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet, light miso (pre-dissolve in a little boiled water)
  • 1 teaspoon of tumeric powder (actually 1 teaspoon of fresh, grated tumeric root is much better if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika powder
  • 1 small clutch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil

To make:

  • In a medium sized saucepan, stir about 1 tablespoon of olive oil through the dry cous-cous
  • In a separate pan, lightly saute the onion and broccoli in olive oil, together with the paprika and tumeric.
  • These first two steps can be done ahead of time, and the rest done in 5 to 10 minutes just before you want to eat…
  • Add the sauted ingredients to the cous-cous, together with the two cups of water and the miso. Mix thoroughly with a fork.
  • Cover the pan and cook on a very low heat (the cous-cous will take up the water very quickly so keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t stick). Keep “fluffing” it with a fork to ensure it doesn’t bind into one big, fat, orange lump.
  • Once the cous-cous has taken up the water (2 or 3 minutes at the most), turn off the heat and leave it covered for a few more minutes
  • Serve into a prewarmed bowl, stirring through the chopped parsley.

Bean and lemon tagine

As the name would suggest, this is a very beany tagine and as such is quiet a heavy meal. It is thus best served with Golden Cous-Cous (which has some vegetables in it) in order to round out the meal. This recipe serves four people.

What goes in:

  • 800 grams (or so) of cooked haricot beans (or pinto, or half and half of each)
  • 2 small preserved lemons; chopped
  • 1 small onion, halved lengthways and finely sliced
  • 2 largish cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (smoked paprika is a traditional spanish spice)
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet, light miso (dissolve in boiled water)
  • A clutch each of fresh parsely and coriander, chopped.
  • A generous splash of olive oil

The making:

  • Prehead oven to high, and preferably preheat the empty tagine
  • Mix all ingredients into the tagine
  • Add boiled water to below lip of tagine bowl
  • Bake on high for about 1 hour

Spicy aubergine dip

A VegHead reverse engineering of an oft ordered entree from our favourite local Moroccan restaurant (Al Fassia – in Windsor). Al Fassia serves this on a bed of finely chopped lettuce, the fresh green of which offsets the brilliant red of the dip in a dramatic manner. If you choose to do it that way, do not spoon the aubergine dip onto the lettuce until just before you serve, or the leaves will wilt and stain.

What goes in:

  • One medium sized aubergine
  • One medium tomato, finely chopped
  • A few thin slices of onion – finely chopped
  • One small crushed clove of garlic
  • Two tablespoons of harissa paste
  • Juice of half a medium lemon
  • Olive oil

The making:

  • Quarter the aubergine lengthways. Holding the skin against your hand, grate the flesh (use the medium to large holes on your grater)
  • Saute the aubergine, onion and garlic in olive oil. Do not allow to stick.
  • Add the harissa paste and continue to cook for another minute or two
  • Add the tomato and tomato
  • Simmer until the juices from the tomato have mostly evaporated
  • Stir through the lemon juice

Serve warm with toasted pita bread (can therefore be made ahead of time)

Dinner with the Flying Dutchman

On Tuesday afternoon The Flying Dutchman signaled his presence in LizzieLand with a quick text. Hasty arrangements were made for him to come over for dinner, thus rescuing him from the foul produce of a Marriott Hotel kitchen. Having extended the invitation the only minor challenge was to open the fridge and see what was actually in the house to cook. The Flying Dutchman will – happily for us – eat what is put in front of him; even the culinary excesses of his mad vegan friends.

The choice of a Moroccan themed dinner was settled by the fact that everything needed was already in the house.

Entree:

  • Hommous
  • Olives
  • Spicy aubergine dip
  • Pita bread

Main course:

  • Bean and lemon tagine
  • Golden cous-cous

And so I’d better get busy posting up the recipes for those….

Rose harissa paste

This recipe makes between 150 and 200 grams of harissa paste.

What goes in…

  • 100 grams of dried red chillies (or 120 grams of fresh red chillies)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of edible fresh or dried rose petals (or 1/4 cup of dried petals)
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sea-salt
  • Olive oil

A note on the rose petals… If you happen to have a garden full of blooming roses, and they have not been sprayed with anything nasty, then simply add about one rose worth of fresh, fragrant, red petals. Another source of culinary rose petals might be a high-end tea shop (make sure it is 100% rose petal, not rose-infused tea). An alternative might be culinary rose essence. Steer clear of dried rose petals that are designed for pot pourri as they have probably had perfume added to them. Similarly, stay away from shop bought “fresh” roses as they have most likely been sprayed. The provenance of the rose is therefore very important and if you’re not 100% sure – do not add this ingredient at all.

To make..

  • In a covered pan, boil the chillies (minus the stems) in a very small amount of water for about 5 minutes. If there is any water left, drain it off and discard. Advisable to have the kitchen extractor fan on high when you’re doing this as the steam can be brutally spicey to pets, loinfruits, and those with a tender sense of smell. Do not ever, ever, ever allow all those chillies to burn or you’ll have to be put into an oxygen tent for the remainder of your life. This is a drag, as you’re only ever allowed to suck grey protein mush through a straw if you’re in an oxygen tent.
  • Blend (BaMix baby) to a smooth paste, adding olive oil to achieve the right consistency.
  • Place in a jar, drizzled with more olive oil to seal it.

Will keep in the fridge for at least two months.

Broad bean and aubergine tagine

Very tired last night after a busy weekend so this was perfect. 10 minutes to prepare, about an hour and a quarter to cook…

Ingredients:

  • cup of broad beans (must admit I generally use frozen broad beans if I am putting them in a tagine. The fresh ones are WAY too expensive to use as an ingredient in spicy dishes. Fresh broad beans in season deserve to be respected through being lightly blanched and their flavour enjoyed to the fullest unadulterated)
  • cup of chopped aubergine
  • 1 small preserved lemon – chopped (if you make your own preserved lemons then one quarter of one lemon)
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite olives
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • berbere or harrissa paste (note to self…need to post those recipes up!)
  • handful of chopped parsley and also coriander
  • 1 courgette. Slice in quarters length-ways, and then halve those quarters cross-ways
  • water

How…

  • Preheat oven to scalding. Preferable preheat the tagine too while you get everything else ready
  • If the broad beans are frozen, defrost them in some boiled water for 5 minutes as doing so will reduce baking time by about 20 minutes
  • Mix all the ingredients except for the courgette and pour into tagine
  • Arrange the eighths of courgette in a clockwheel around the top. Drizzle each lightly with a little more olive oil
  • add water until just below the level of the tagine base.
  • Bake the covered tagine for 60 to 75 minutes or until the water is mostly boiled away.

Serve with cous-cous

Baked bean pizza pie

My American friends (“some of my best friends are americans” as the saying goes) call a pizza a pizza-pie. Especially in Noo Yark. This really is a pizza pie though, in that it is made with the dough top and bottom.

You will need….

  • a batch of pizza dough
  • a batch of pesto
  • a batch of giant baked beans

To make….

  • roll out two pizzas that are about 35cms in diameter. Place one on a pizza tray (that is dusted with fine cornmeal)
  • spread pesto on both pizza bases, leaving a margin of about 4cm to the edge (as opposed to if you were spreading this on a normal pizza you’d go almost right to the edge)
  • (on the base that is on the pizza tray) spread beans on the same area as the pesto. Try to cover the pesto entirely with a single layer of beans (meaning lay the beans flat, evenly, and closely packed)
  • cover with second pizza dough, with the pesto facing down
  • roll the edges together all around the dish
  • bake in a preheated hot oven for about 20 minutes. Probably worth checking it after about 12-13 minutes to check that the pastry isn’t overcooking – if that looks to be the case lower the heat

Giant baked beans

This is a home developed version of a traditional Greek dish known as γίγαντες πλακί, which I am sure that you know is pronounced yee-gahn-dess plar-kee. Also known as “baked beans for grown ups” (*).

This dish is also used as a basis for several other recipes in the VegHead’s kitchen, so if you see another recipe that calls for “giant baked beans” this is it. We make a batch of this up generally once a week and most of it then goes into other recipes.

Things wot go in…

  • 500 grams of cooked butter beans
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped dill
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of light miso
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • Boiled water

The doing…

  • Dissolve the miso and tomato pastes in about 1/4 cup of boiled water
  • Mix all ingredients. If it looks too dry add a little more water. If you accidentally add too much water then increase the cooking time.
  • Bake in a covered dish in a pre-heated hot oven for about 30 minutes

* hahaha – just reviewed this post before publishing and spotted that I had mistyped “baked beans for grown ups” as “naked beans for grown ups”. Lucky I saw that…

Basil pesto

Its really hard to get a decent shop bought basil pesto that is vegan. Basil is also a fabulous companion plant to tomatoes so when it is season we are always turning some of it into pesto so as to preserve it.

What you need….

  • A lot of basil. Hard to say how much exactly as I’ve never weighed it. Once the leaves are pulled off the stalks (use the flowers and the seeds too if the plant is running to seed) then you should have enough to fairly tightly fill a large colander. Wash and drain the leaves.
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of rock salt
  • 1/4 cup of lightly roasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup of lightly roasted pine nuts
  • Olive oil – keep the bottle handy

The doing….

  • Basically, blend it all together (or in our kitchen “Bamix it”). Reserve 1/4 of a cup of the pine nuts though…
  • Don’t hold back on the olive oil – as well as adding flavour it is also the “lubricant” that makes it easier to blend to a smooth consistency
  • Once done, mix in the reserved pine nuts.
  • Unless you’re using this straight away, pour a little more olive oil on top to seal it, sprinkle just a little more salt on to preserve and refrigerate. Should keep for at least 2 weeks.

Marvelous instead of tomato paste on pizza, also tossed with pasta and mushrooms, or indeed however else you want to use it.

Pizza (and Calzoni) dough

A few years ago the VegHead and SheWhoMustBeFed holidayed in Tuscany. The accommodation, which was an old farm building renovated and restored, had a wood fired pizza oven built into the nearly three metre thick walls. One night we made a big batch of fresh pizza dough and fed ourselves and also the four young guys staying next door, and also the owner and his Italian friend. Suffice to say that this dough got the nod of appreciation from the Italians, all of whom found it simply amazing that didn’t just go and buy pre-made pizzas from the supermarket like every other tourist. Therefore I can say with confidence that 100% of Italians who have eaten a pizza made from this base have loved it (Of course, the gallon of red wine we drank between us may have clouded their judgement somewhat but never let the truth get in the way of a good story). We make a batch of this every Friday – it is Pizza Night on Fridays in the VegHead Household.

What goes in the dough…

  • 4 ½ tpn or ½ oz or 2 packages yeast.
  • 2 tspn sugar
  • 4 cups white, strong, stoneground, organic flour. Add a little more if the dough seems too wet
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

What to do….

  • Put yeast and sugar in cup. Add ½ cup water (37-43˚C). Mix well. Wait about 5 minutes for yeast and sugar to activate.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add flour, salt, olive oil, 1 cup warm water and yeast mix. Mix with fork to get all liquid absorbed by the flour.
  • Place handful of flour on mixing surface. Dust your hands and spread out flour. Empty contents of bowl onto flour.
  • Knead dough 8-10 mins or until texture is smooth and uniform. If a little sticky, add more flour.
  • Place dough in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil lightly rub the oil over the surface of the dough mix to ensure even coverage). Cover with a cloth and place in a draft free area for about one hour.
  • Punch down the dough, preheat the oven to 260˚C (or if you’re lucky – tend to your wood fired pizza oven), and wait about 45 mins. The dough is now ready.
  • Cut dough in half. (I get 4 smallish pizzas out of this much dough).
  • Dust a rolling pin with flour and gently roll out on floured surface, until desired shape. Can use fingers if you like.
  • Dust pizza tray with fine cornmeal. Use a spatula or a peel to slide the dough onto the tray, or preferably just roll it over the rolling pin, and unroll it onto the pizza tray.
  • Drizzle with oil. Spread with tomato sauce. Add toppings. Cook for 8-14 minutes. (You may need to adjust cooking time if your oven doesn’t get really hot, or if you have a LOT of wet toppings which increases cooking time)

Oil’s ain’t oils…

In the oil cupboard…what’s in there and what is it all used for (all oils are organic)

1. Olive oil (extra virgin, cold pressed)

  • anything Italian
  • bread recipes that require oil
  • baking

2. Peanut oil

  • Thai
  • Indonesian
  • general frying

3. Vegetable oil (take care to get organic – non organic is likely made with GM canola or soya)

  • Indian
  • Ethiopian
  • general frying

4. Coconut oil (is a hard oil at room temperature)

  • Thai and anything else that also has coconut milk in it
  • General shallow frying of anything to which you wish to add a gentle coconut flavour

5. Sesame oil

  • Not used for cooking – use only cold or stir in to a hot meal just before eating
  • Sesame and beetroot are one of the Universe’s natural couples

6. French Walnut oil

  • Not used for cooking
  • Lends a very light nutty taste
  • The best oil to use in mashed potato rather than butter or margarine
Posted in Oil

Why are there no pictures?

You might wonder why there are no, or at least few pictures on this blog. Well that is a reasonable question given that so many cook books and web-based recipe exchanges are like food-porn.

Well its like this…. This is me attempting to write up every new thing cooked from scratch for a year. It gets posted after I’ve cooked it, after SheWhoMustBeFed and I eat it, and after I know it works. By then there is only dirty plates and washing up to take a picture of.

I suppose I could keep a camera handy and take a photo just before I eat it. But then again I figure it is egotistical enough that I might think anyone else actually wants to know what I do in my kitchen. Keeping a camera handy too? This ain’t Paris Hilton’s bedroom!

Lasagna

Yes it is possible to create a completely vegan lasagna – not ‘vegetarian’ (with cheese).

Ingredients…

The red layer

  • 1/2 block of tempeh – grated
  • 1 medium carrot – grated
  • 1 medium onion – finely chopped
  • 2 medium chopped tomatoes
  • 1 knob of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small aubergine, grated
  • 2 tblspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tblspoons of miso paste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • Fresh herbs – chopped; parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil
  • (Optional – 2 small hot, red chillies, chopped)

The white layer

  • 1 cup of cooked white beans (generally haricot or butter beans)
  • Flour – amount of flour, oil, milk varies depending on size of cooking container
  • Olive oil
  • Soy milk

The green layer

  • 1/2 cup of steamed spinach – blended or finely chopped

Plus – lasagne sheets

The doing..

The red layer

  • Lightly sauté onions in oil until clear
  • Add garlic, and chillies and sauté for an additional minute
  • Dissolve tomato and miso paste in over medium heat, with red wine
  • Combine with all other ingredients in a large bowl

The white layer

  • Blend beans to a smooth paste with a little soy milk
  • Cook flour and olive oil over a low heat, stirring regularly, to a thick paste.
  • Add soy milk to flour paste to create approximate consistency of thick (diary) cream.
  • Add to bean paste and blend until combined thoroughly

Putting it all together

  • Layer in a baking dish as per usual lasagna method ie. red layer, then lasagna pasta, then green layer, then white. Repeat stack – finishes with white on top
  • Bake at 180c for approximately 45 minutes

The story of my wok

A wok is your friend. Not as good a friend as the Bamix or the Pressure Cooker, but it’s right up there toward the top of the social pecking order. But my goal here is not to convince you of the merits of a wok. Oh no…your path toward understanding is your own to tread. The wok merely serves in this case as a single physical manifestation of the goals we set ourselves in order to move along the path. It is the challenges, false starts, and the lessons we learn through overcoming them that are more important.

It is so in every allegorical semi-mystical load of malarkey.

This is story of my wok, or rather My Current Wok. We did not come to each other both wearing virginal white. I had flings and dalliances with several woks over the years. All of them, like My Current Wok were made of mild steel – I’m not a teflon kinda guy and fancy stainless steel just didn’t seem fit for purpose for a wok. When was the last time you saw a Bangkok street hawker sizzling a battered rat in a stainless steel wok? Exactly my point!

The trouble was, all those woks had let me down eventually. No matter how much I pampered them they’d all eventually developed a mild case of rust and no matter what I did afterward to try and save them they lent a dreary taste of oxidisation to everything they touched. My lesson here was that not all mild steel is created equal.

Some years ago SheWhoMustBeFed and the VegHead spent four years living on Long Island (NY). A few miles down the road was a Thai Restuarant. The soul destroying expanse of the strip mall carpark that was its location belied the cheeriness inside, and more importantly the tasty produce of its kitchen.

All the cooking took place in full view of the patrons, with the chefs busying away behind a chest high divider. Flames regularly leap toward the exhaust fans as the hot oil from their creations splashed onto the gas flames. Their woks were battle hardened – coated black inside and out with the baked on seasoning of endless oily use.

One night…

We noticed that they were selling a dozen or so new woks “The same as we use here in our kitchen”. Mild steel, sturdy varnished wooden handle with a steel rod running through it, ending in a closed hook to hang it. No lid. US$6.50. My heart was filled with the memories of past betrayal as I looked on it’s bright, fresh bowl. But hey…six dollars fifty and I needed a wok so what the hell…

How gloriously seasoned My Current Wok has become. The mild steel of the bowl is The Right Stuff. Even the handle has retained it’s fresh varnished look.

Even better, the perfect wok lid came into our lives about 6 months after we first got The Current Wok. One night I needed a lid in order to successfully cook whatever it was I was doing for dinner. Looking in the cupboards to see if anything would fit I grabbed the largest of our set of nested stainless steel mixing bowls. This one was deeply bowled and at some point it must have been dropped on the floor, as there was a tiny dint inward just at the edge of the flat base – about the size of a little fingernail.

The lid fitted into the bowl of the wok better than Cinderella’s foot fitted the glass shoe.

By mid morning the next day the bowl had officially been paired with the wok, and their union consummated through the act of drilling a hole in the centre of the bowl’s flat base. Through this a small wooden knob type handle was screwed on – a spare kitchen cupboard type knob that emerged from the depths of my tool box. Another smaller hole (1.5mm) was drilled where the dint was, to allow steam to escape.

My Current Wok is not without needs.

Here is how I keep it happy;

  • it likes to be thoroughly seasoned inside and out with olive or peanut oil
  • it doesn’t like too much watery stuff in it.
  • it doesn’t like to be washed with soapy water too much. It prefers to be thoroughly rinsed with very hot water while it is still hot, immediately after cooking. If I dry off any excess water with a quick flick of a towel then the residual heat will completely steam off the remainder. This sounds like a hassle but it takes as long as SheWhoMustBeFed takes to carry the dinner plates to the table.

We’ve been together now for almost eight years, my wok and I. I think that she liked that I made her a bonny lid, so she has remained faithful to me throughout. Love your wok, and it will love you back..

Cavolo Nero and mushrooms in sesame

Cavolo Nero is a cabbage, but oh what a cabbage it is. Nero refers not only to the black verdancy of the leaves, but also points to the place it holds in the Royal Court of Cabbage. No mere, sulphurous, dense ball of pale cabbage commonry, Cavolo Nero’s leaves are long; and the thin, crispy flesh is densly crinkled. If you cannot get any local, organic Cavolo Nero in season, then you can use Kale instead. However your life will be a little sadder for the substitution.

This…is a stir fry. Considering the fact that stir fries are meant to form a solid foundation to the average VegHead’s menu we don’t actually cook that many of them. But hey…you go with the flow of what’s in season and what’s in the larder, and Cavolo Nero is a stir fry kinda guy…

What was in the fridge..

  • One firmly packed cup of chopped Cavolo Nero. Strip the stalk off each leaf as far as the point where it disappears anyway, slice into smallish pieces, wash and thoroughly drain before using.
  • One glove of garlic, crushed
  • A few slices of onion
  • One cup of chopped mushrooms. shitake would have been my first choice, alas the larder was shitakeless. Firm, small fresh champignons therefore gave it their all.
  • Half a packet of firm beancurd; cut into small cubes
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • Tamari to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Peanut oil for stir frying
  • Dark sesame oil
  • Crushed roasted almonds
  • Brown rice noodles

What to do..

Stir fry in this order:

  • onion, garlic and pepper
  • tamari, beancurd and mushrooms
  • cavolo nero

Meanwhile….prepare the brown rice noodles as per packet intructions. In my case; soak in boiled water for 5 minutes then rinse in cold water and drain.

  • add the cooked noodles to the stir fry. Toss with gaiety to ensure the noodles don’t form one fat lump all by themselves. Its a bit like a party where there are two social groups – your work friends and your “other” friends – unless you make them mingle they’ll all have a good time but they won’t socialise with each other.
  • Drizzle with a little dark sesame oil
  • Garnish with a generous toss of the coriander, and also the almonds
  • Best served on a prewarmed plate. For some reason noodles go cold on a plate almost quicker than anything else.

Served two..

Ffffsssssst

Ffffsssssst….That’s the sound I can hear from downstairs.

SheWhoMustBeFed is doing her weekly task of pressure-cooking up a weeks worth of dried beans. This is a once a week task that provides all the beans in whatever we then cook. Almost every week we pressure-cook up a batch each of chick peas, butter beans, and one other.

The first two are staples in a number of other recipes that we cook every week (not that I’ve posted anything with butter beans in it yet but by the end of this week I will have). The latter we change depending on what we’ll be cooking later; haricot, kidney, black, adzuki, black-eyed….

This process is much cheaper than buying precooked tinned beans, and comes with a lower “footprint” than using the more heavily pre-processed and packaged tins.

Moral: pressure cookers are your best friend (OK…a Bamix is your best friend who you see every day and a pressure cooker is like your other best friend who you only see once a week but who is a uniquely wonderful and useful person to know)

Basic bread

I highly recommend baking your own bread whenever you have the chance to do so. Also, get yourself a copy of “Bread Matters” by Andrew Whitley (http://www.breadmatters.com/book/). This recipe is an adaption of the basic wholemeal bread recipe from that book.

Anyone who hasn’t made bread from scratch probably thinks it takes really long time. Well it kinda does and it kinda doesn’t. From reaching for the scales to having a slice of bread does take about three to three and a half hours elapsed time. However, you’re only actually doing something for 20 minutes at the beginning, then 10 minutes later, then 5 minutes later again. In between….what ever turns you on.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams organic, stoneground, strong white flour
  • 300 grams organic, stoneground, wholemeal flour
  • 5 grams of sea salt
  • 8 grams of fresh yeast (or equivalent dried active yeast)
  • 400 mls of water (adjust temperature of water as required – see below)
  • Heavy duty bread mold. Heavy cast iron is best, followed by heavy duty glazed pottery. Lightly coat with olive oil (too much and the bread will fry). Do not use a thin metal cake tin (the metals expands and “pops” in the oven which can “shock” the bread and deflate it). Do not use glass – the bread sticks to it terribly. Do not use non stick – because non stick is just blah.

By the way….this is all bread needs. Compare this list with the ingredients list on the side of a standard supermarket loaf of bread. All that other crap they put in there is there all to make it possible to make bread according to what’s called the “Chorleywood Method” of bread making – which is the high industrialised method that skirts the need to allow the bread to rise and prove.

What to do…

  • In a large glass bowl….Combine flours and salt (stir in the salt with a fork to more evenly distribute it)
  • Dissolve the yeast in a little of the (cold) water and add
  • Add the remaining water
  • Note: the ideal temperature for the bread mix is about 27c. On a really cold day, when all the ingredients are cold, the bowl is cold, the bench is cold and so on the coolness will hamper the growth of the yeast in the dough, and the feeding cycle of the yeast on the sugars in the flour. This will result in a somewhat unrisen loaf which is akin to a brick. Therefore, adjust the temperature of the water in the mix to create a warm dough. Just don’t dissolve the yeast in boiled water – you’ll kill it with too much heat.
  • Now…roll up your sleaves and come to terms with the fact that you’re going to get dough on your hands.
  • Using your hands….mix it all up in the bowl until the dough begins to form a kneadable mixture – which should only take about a minute.
  • Scoop out the dough and firmly knead on a bench for 12 minutes. If you’ve never kneaded bread before: take particular note of how the dough changes consistency as it is kneaded over the 12 minute period. These changes in consistency are due to the flour taking up the water and the gluten bonds beginning to form.
  • At the end of kneading: “fold” the dough to create a “ball” (should be about 15cms in diameter) and then place “seam down” back in your original bowl.
  • Go and wash your hands in warm, soapy water NOW. If you can stand to do so use a soft brush like one normally used for scrubbing under your nails to help get the dough off. Special note for men with hairy hands: get the dough off your hands thoroughly NOW because it is REALLY painful to pull it off all those hairs once it dries; you’ll also spend the next few hours explaining to people that “No…that is not dried snot on the back of my hands”.
  • Cover the bowl with cling wrap. Note: the bowl should be deep enough so that the dough isn’t touching the cling wrap as it rises. Not only would that prevent the dough from rising evenly, cling wrap is blah. In VegHead’s kitchen it is only used very sparingly and only for one or two particular purposes and only when it won’t be sitting touching food. This is one of those times.
  • Place in a warm spot for 2 hours (I use the cupboard in the house where the hot water cylinder is located – its about 25+ degrees celsius in there)
  • While you’re at it, the bread mold you’re going to need later shouldn’t be stone-cold either. I put the mold in the same cupboard as the dough so that it warms up to the same temperature.
  • Set a reminder timer and go do something else for 2 hours….
  • ….After 2 hours….the dough should have noticeably risen (at least doubling in size), retrieve it and also the bread mold.
  • Scoop out and knock back the dough.
  • Stretch it out lightly and fold it back on itself “in thirds” i.e. don’t fold it back in half, fold it back a third of the way and then again.
  • Repeat last step twice more.
  • Fold the dough to a suitable shape to place it in the mold. The folded shape should be about two thirds of the size of your mold. Place the dough into the mold with the “seam” of the folded dough facing down.
  • Cover again and put it back in the warm spot for 20 to 30 minutes to “prove” – this is the second stage of rising
  • Meanwhile: preheat oven – hellfire setting
  • Set a reminder timer and go do something else for 20 to 30 minutes….
  • ….After 30 minutes….the dough should have again noticeably risen
  • Bake for 20 minutes on high
  • Reduce temperature and bake for further 15 minutes (adjust times up or down depending on your oven)
  • Bread is ready when a metal skewer comes out clean
  • Turn out the bread onto a rack
  • Allow to cool before slicing. If you slice very hot bread straight out of the oven its always doughy – better to leave it to cool down.

Orange Poppy Seed Cake

Many years ago I was living in the inner Sydney suburb of Enmore. On Enmore Road was a fantastic little cake shop – the sort that actually makes cakes on the premises instead of just selling glazed crap with fake cream and trans-fat oils.

Anyway, that was where I first had Orange Poppy Seed cake, which if I recall was A$15 for a double-decker 30cm diameter cake. So it was just obvious that we would need to re-create a vegan version of that if for no other reason than Enmore Road is now a 24 hour flight away.

Like the Chocolate Cake, this too has passed the vigorous “Non vegan visiting children” test with flying colours.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups plain flour (organic, stoneground, white flour – preferably NOT “strong” flour which is used primarily for bread making)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • 1 ½ tabs poppy seeds
  • ½ cup almond meal (or finely chopped almonds)
  • ¾ cup soy milk
  • 2 tspn orange extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Egg replacer, equal to one egg (or use an egg if you eat them)

Method

  • Preheat oven to moderate temperature (180˚C).
  • In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds, and almonds.
  • Add the soy milk, orange extract, zest, oil and egg replacer (or egg) and stir together gently until “just mixed”.
  • Pour into a lightly oiled 8-inch cake pan
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Ice the cake with icing made with icing sugar and using only some juice from the orange as the liquid.

Chocolate Cake

That got your attention didn’t it….Chocolate….

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups plain flour (organic, stoneground, white flour – preferably NOT “strong” flour which is used primarily for bread making)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tspn vinegar
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1 cup water

Method

  • Preheat oven to moderate temperature (180˚C).
  • Grease and flour a standard sized square cake tin, (or a round one of equivalent size, which would be perhaps 30cm in diameter).
  • Mix all ingredients together lightly and thoroughly with a fork.
  • Pour into tin and cook for approximately 35 minutes or until cake pulls away slightly from the edge of the tin.
  • Test with a thin skewer in the centre of the cake. If the skewer comes out dry, then the cake is ready.
  • Cool the cake mostly in the tin, then turn out onto a cake rack.
  • When cool, ice with chocolate icing, or just eat the cake as is.

This has passed the vigorous “Non vegan visiting children test” with flying colours, and has also won special awards at the “School fair – I can’t believe it is vegan” category.

Tofu Katjang Tana Soup

This is from the archives…according to my notes this was invented 21st February 2000. A ‘Frente’ CD was playing during the cooking.

Ingredients & Preparation

  • Tamarind pulp – ½ cup
  • Vegetable Oil (canola, peanut, walnut are suitable. Not Olive oil)
  • Fresh Ginger – approximately the size of the top knuckle of your thumb. Peel and finely chop, or grate if you have a ginger grater
  • Fresh coriander – 6 stalks. Finely chop
  • Salt free peanut butter – 2 tablespoons
  • Coconut cream – 1/3 can
  • Water – 1 ½ cups
  • Firm tofu – 1/3 block. Cut into 1” cubes
  • Shittake mushrooms – 4. Sliced finely
  • Medium size baby bock choy
  • Palm sugar – 1 tablespoon
  • Chilli paste – to taste

Method

  • Combine all liquid ingredients and melt palm sugar over low heat
  • Add mushrooms, coriander, tofu, and chilli
  • Cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally, ensuring that tofu is coated evenly with liquid. Do not allow to boil.
  • Add Bock Choy and cook for an additional 5 minutes

Serving

  • Serve over rice noodles or rice
  • The quantities listed should satisfy two people
  • Wine always improves a meal

Tomato Soup in 15 minutes

I just don’t get why anyone would want to eat canned tomato soup. This takes 15 minutes at the most, which I reckon must be only a little longer than it would take to open a can and heat it.

SheWhoMustBeFed often tries to avoid too much wheat and this filling lunch can be eaten with or without bread. This recipe feeds one; or two if accompanied by toast/fresh bread.

Ingredients & Preparation

  • 3 thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh rosemary, thyme
  • 3 medium/small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbspn miso
  • 1 Tbspn tomato paste
  • Tspn ground pepper
  • ½ cup of water or light stock
  • Olive oil
  • When serving: (thick) balsamic vinegar

Method

  • Lightly sauté onions, garlic and pepper.
  • Meanwhile lightly blend rest of ingredients
  • Add to pot, stir thoroughly and simmer on low for 10 minutes
  • Serve in wide, shallow bowl.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar in a thin spiral swirl from the centre to the outside
  • Serve with hot crusty fresh bread.

Hommous…Hommos…Hummus…its all just chickpea paste to me

The basic ingredients of hommous are something I’ve known for a while. Recently I have however discovered “the trick” that suddenly made for a much more evenly blended and light consistency.

What you need

  • A lemon
  • Light tahini
  • One clove of garlic
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Chick peas
  • (Optional) chopped parsley

What to do

Here’s “the trick”….what I used to do was blend up the chickpeas first and then add everything else. The resulting hommous was OK, but it could have been smoother IMHO. So then I thought….” Hhmm…..Tahini Sauce has almost the same ingredients as hommous only without the chickpeas…..I wonder…..”

As an aside; if you’ve never made Tahini Sauce then here’s what happens: When you blend tahini, water and lemon the mixture first gets amazingly gooey and then as you add just a l-i-i-i-i-ttle bit more water it suddenly changes consistency and becomes more a mousse consistency. You have to see this happen to understand the change.

So….blend in this order:

  • half a lemon worth of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • (optional) a few sprigs of chopped parsley
  • water (until it gets the mousse texture). At this point the mixture should be slightly “wet” as the chickpeas will then thicken the mixture.
  • THEN….add and blend the cooked chickpeas until the mixture thickens to the desired consistency – I figure you’ve all bought ready-made-hommous so you know what you’re aiming for. Remember that after refridgeration the mixture will thicken slightly.

Bread stuffing in pumpkin

The problem with stuffing is what to stuff it in when you’re not cooking a dead bird. Solved this today by stuffing a small butternut pumpkin.

Ingredients

  • One small pumpkin (really, the size of the pumpkin then establishes how much of everything else you need to make. My pumpkin was a bit larger than a softball and had a fairly thin layer of flesh)
  • Two slices of bread; toasted
  • 1/4 cup of roasted almonds
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • A few thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • Fresh parsley, dill, thyme – chopped
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of tamari (or soy sauce)

What to do..

  • Cut off the top of the pumpkin in such a way that you can put the lid back on later. Scoop out all the seeds and discard (but don’t compost these unless you want a million pumpkin vines growing everywhere you use the compost down next spring)
  • Turn the toast into breadcrumbs and crush the nuts in your preferred manner. I am a big fan of “BaMix” hand held blender for this task.
  • Combine all ingredients to make the stuffing.
  • If the stuffing is a bit dry add a little water
  • Stuff that pumpkin tightly, leaving room to fit the lid back on.
  • If possible, skewer the lid with a metal or wooden skewer to hold it on
  • Roast until the pumpkin flesh is soft

Serve with other roast vegetables etc etc