Thursday, August 11, 2011
FNQ - Holiday Cooking
My first official trip away from home as a vegan was to Far North Queensland last week so I wanted to be well prepared and take along some food for the road. The man and I (we went childless this time) flew up to Cairns, were picked up by our friends K and N and taken to an isolated spot called Russell Heads (pictured above) for the weekend, It is a tranquil and beautiful place 45 minutes south of Cairns and on the coast but only accessible by boat and only when the tide is high. The two of us then drove to the Daintree where we stayed in a gorgeous house in the middle of the rainforest for a couple of days and after that drove south down to Mission Beach to throw some dollars at the local economy which is still rebuilding after the devastation that Cyclone Yasi caused in February.
I started preparing for the trip a week in advance with some Viva Vegan chorizo seitan sausages as I thought they would be handy to have in case of a BBQ. Around the time I discovered chorizo seitan last summer, this spicy chipotle ranch dressing was also a hit and we enjoyed several chorizo snags in bread topped with the ranch dressing. It had been a while between batches, so I whizzed one up for the road. I also took along some of Cindy's well renowned vegan sausage rolls and prepped the bean burger mixture also posted on Where's the Beef recently. For the plane trip, I threw together a Mediterranean flavoured risoni based pasta salad which the man adored. It is a recipe I plan to work on further when the warmer months arrive as I thought it needed a little tweaking. So as well as our luggage I had a big cooler bag full to the brim of supplies to keep us going!
The sausage rolls went on the first night and although K and N liked them, they were totally blown away by the chipotle ranch dressing. Unfortunately we forgot to take tomato or BBQ sauce so the sausage rolls were downed in a rather unorthodox fashion, with either sweet chilli sauce, tamari or chipotle ranch dressing. A trip to the shops would have meant a cruise back up the crocodile infested river in the dark so we had to make do with what we had. K and N made some awesome rice paper rolls the following night which was a bit of a struggle given the only knife in the house was totally blunt rendering it almost useless. Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the end result.
On our way to the Daintree we stopped off in Port Douglas for groceries and the man was interested in a Thai red curry and lentil bolognese (with garlic bread of course!) for our dinners. I was stunned that I couldn't find any plain tofu in two supermarkets, all they had was the pre-marinated packages which I usually don't buy. On our first night I made a red curry with a vegan friendly paste spruced up with extra chilli, garlic and lime loaded with heaps of vegies and marinated tofu and it was delicious.
For lunch the next day we had bean burger subs. The pre-made burger mix was purely made of ground beans, nuts, oats, flour and spices which made it perfect travel food. There was no need to keep it chilled and a week after making the mixture, it still smelt fresh and just as good as the day it had been made. The final steps only required the addition of tamari, water and some garlic and after soaking for 15 minutes it was ready to ready to fry. These burgers had such a robust texture that I had no qualms about them falling apart in the pan. The subs were layered with a tofutti cheese slice (which I thankfully brought with me from Melbourne), the bean burger, tomato sauce, lettuce, carrot, capsicum, red onion and avocado. They were very tasty subs, the bean burgers had a fantastic nut and garlic flavour with a slight crunch and were deceivingly filling too.
We didn't have cooking facilities at Mission Beach which was a shame as it was difficult to find vegan eats but I will write more about that in my next post. For our last night we drove back to Cairns to stay with K and N who had planned a wood-fired pizza night as they recently bought a second-hand oven. I tried to hunt down some cheezly in Cairns but to no avail. A vegetarian supplies shop listed on the Happy Cow website had a "For Lease" sign in the window and a couple of other health food stores were of no use in the cheezly department. We made do with the remaining chopped up tofutti slices we had and the man was unusually given license to create the toppings for the vegan pizza. As well as heaps of veggies and loads of garlic, he decided to chop up some bean burgers and chorizo which worked a treat. We called it the vegan meat-lovers pizza!
My biggest regret was that I didn't return to the Cairns markets before we returned home to purchase some fresh produce. We went there on our first day and I was blown away with variety of fruit and vegetables available. Local produce like bananas, pineapples and avocadoes were about half the price that we pay in Melbourne. Other more exotic tropical fruits like jackfruit, lychees, mangosteens and rambutans were in abundance. My jaw dropped open when I saw plantains as there are quite a few recipes that use plantains in Viva Vegan which I have wanted to try!
Although the weather was a lot warmer than Melbourne we only felt the sun on our skin once which was a shame. It was overcast most days with showers here and there but it was still lovely to walk around in shorts and t-shirts for a week. It doesn't feel right to finish without a recipe so I will leave you with the bean burgers which will definitely be made again and they will be something that I keep in mind for future travel.
Next post will feature some places where we ate in FNQ!
Bean Burgers (Adapted from Where's the Beef and originally from Meals without Meat)
1/2 cup dry chickpeas
1/2 cup dry cannellini beans
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons tamari
1 cup water
Place the chickpeas, cannellini beans, peanuts and sesame seeds in a food processor bowl and process until the texture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the parsley, salt, oats and chickpea flour and mix well.
At this stage it can be stored in a airtight container for at least a week.
When you are ready to make burgers, add the water, tamari and chopped garlic to the dry mixture, mix until well combined and allow to soak for 15 minutes. Shape the dough into burger patties and fry until each side has browned up nicely.