Monday, January 31, 2011

Home-made Cannelloni

Home-made pasta has been on my to-do agenda for a while so when Keira posted a delicious looking cannelloni recipe last week I had to try it...

When I first became vegetarian I cooked cannelloni to death as it was a simple meal that everyone seemed to enjoy, until everyone at home became a bit tired of eating it. Stuffing the pre-bought tubes was the hardest part of preparing the meal and the mess involved in my previous small kitchen could make me grumpy at times. So I hadn't gotten around to trying a vegan cannelloni yet.

Keira's recipe and step by step instructions appealed to me as there was none of this tube stuffing to be dealt with. Sure there was pasta to be made instead, but how hard could that be? In fact, making the dough wasn't that bad - I might have been a little worried about how firm the dough was initially but after giving it a good knead for 10 minutes it seemed to be a nice consistency.

Then came the rolling. Oh dear!!! It started off well however I had a bit a trouble getting my sheets to be the same size. After placing the mixture in the sheets and rolling them up I had another small heart failure. There was NO WAY these tubes were going to fit in my baking dish, I must have been a little over zealous with the rolling pin as they turned out to be enormous in length. 6 of my 8 tubes went into the dish (the wrong way around) and another small dish was prepared quickly to bake the remaining 2 tubes which were cut in half to fit. Before placing the large baking dish into the oven I cut the 6 tubes down the middle to make them an easier size to manage.

The end result was sensational (although the photo doesn't do it justice) and Keira was totally right in advising me that it's worth making your own pasta because that was the best cannelloni that has come out of my kitchen! I'll definitely make this again one day...

The only differences made to Keira's recipe were adding a crushed garlic clove to the filling, subbing fresh spinach leaves for the kale and my sauce used a bottle of tomato passata rather than fresh tomatoes and also had some basil added to it.

I served this with a simple side salad of cos lettuce, avocado, tomato, olives and spring onions with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some garlic bread.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Huge Hearty Brunch

This morning when I set out to cook brunch there was plenty of time up my sleeve as hubby was out for a couple of hours so I decided to make it a big one - and it was! It was made up as I went along, a couple of things were already in my mind when I started however many more elements were added along the way.

I began by marinating some thinly sliced tofu strips in soy sauce, nutritional yeast and liquid smoke to make tofu "bacon", then proceeded to make a vegan pesto as there was a surplus of basil waiting to be used. The pesto was made by blending a bunch of fresh basil, 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1 clove of crushed garlic, olive oil (not sure of quantity) and a pinch of salt.

After the tofu strips had marinated for 30 minutes, they were cooked on each side in a frying pan until nice and crispy.

Tofu omlettes from Vegan Brunch were a roaring success last week so I made another batch and decided to fill them with mushrooms, spinach and spring onions. The mushrooms were cooked with a bit of Nuttelex, a pinch of dried tarragon and salt and pepper. The spinach had a quick burst in the microwave and then a bit of pesto stirred through.

Only one piece of toast was required to accompany the omlette and this was topped with the remaining mushrooms, spring onions and tofu "bacon". Half a grilled tomato topped with pesto was also served on the side. This was an amazing brunch and the home-made pesto made it extra special...

It kept us satisfied until dinner and there was left-over tofu "bacon", mini omlettes (which are great in sandwiches) and pesto for this weeks lunches!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Black Beans & Quinoa with Chipotle Raspberry Sauce

OK, this photo quality is pretty crappy (not that mine are ever great) and does not do the meal justice at all, however I still wanted to post this as it's such an unusual combination of ingredients and really must be tried to be believed.... I wanted to give this a go the moment it appeared in my RSS feeds!

The funny thing is when raspberries were spotted on the bench tonight, hubby and son had an immediate mindset that they weren't going to like their dinner and also tried to sneak a bite before it was served up with the sauce and toasted almonds. They were proved wrong pretty quickly when they tasted the finished result! I tried to explain that Isa really knows her stuff...

This was made as per the recipe in Isa's blog, no modifications at all. If you like the sound of it you should definitely try this too, it's a nice quick dinner with a difference!

BBQ Baked Tofu and Bok Choy

Sometimes I have a clear idea of what I will be cooking for dinner, other days I'll resort to searching through blogs, cookbooks or my pile of "recipes to cook" that is always growing looking for some inspiration. Some days when I hunt around a recipe will jump out pretty quickly and then there are those days when it's too hard to make a decision because so much is appealing. Today was one of those days...

After going back and forth and changing my mind a million times I decided to ask my son what he would like for dinner. I was planning to show him a couple of recipes however he was sold on the first - BBQ Baked Tofu from Veganomicon. It wasn't that surprising given he loves BBQ sauce with anything and he also loves happens to love tofu. The next question posed to him was "What should we have with it?" After a very short pause he came back with Bok Choy. A quick scan of the Veganomicon index and Baby Bok Choy with crispy shallots and sesame seeds was deemed to be the pairing dish as well as some steamed rice.

The BBQ Baked Tofu was made almost to the recipe apart from a minor reading mishap with the sauce ingredients. Only 2 teaspoons of sugar was added instead of the specified 2 tablespoons. It didn't seem to matter as the flavour of the sauce tasted pretty nice anyway so I left it. Other meals featuring BBQ sauce will have to be on the menu in the near future as I probably used about 1/4 of the sauce on the tofu. I have never been a fan of commercial BBQ sauces before however this one was surprisingly tasty.      

The Baby Bok Choy with crispy shallots and sesame seeds was modified slightly and also simplified by using pre-fried shallots purchased from the Asian grocer. Baby bok choy was unavailable at the shops so I used normal bok choy and also decided to add some shitake mushrooms into the mix. This turned out to be a very tasty side dish, the addition of the fried shallots and toasted sesame seeds took those simple greens to another level.

Bok choy with crispy shallots and sesame seeds (Adapted from Veganomicon)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 inch piece ginger, chopped finely
1 bunch bok choy, washed
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
15g dried shitake mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes
Some fried shallots
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Chop the bok choy stems into bite site pieces and place in a bowl. Roughly chop the green tops of the bok choy and place in another bowl.

Heat the peanut oil in a large saucepan or wok, add the ginger and fry for 15 seconds. Add the bok choy stems and stir fry for 2-3 minutes and mix through the mirin, soy sauce, boy choy greens and shitake mushrooms. Stir fry for another minute or two until the greens have wilted. 

Transfer to serving plates and top with fried shallots and toasted sesame seeds. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Viva Vegan - Vegan Brunch muffins

There's nothing like waking up on the weekend and spending some leisurely time in the kitchen cooking up a yummy brunch. I try to make something special at least once a week, sometimes this can be a tofu scramble or as my crew are rather fond of english muffins they also feature regularly...

There has been a teeny bit of a obsession at our house with the awesome chorizo sausage recipe from Viva Vegan, one of the first things to be trialled from the book. Vegan sausages have never worked for us until now, whether they have been the dreadful tasteless store bought ones or even home made varieties. I would have made at least 4 batches of chorizo in the past month and depleted my supply of gluten flour in the process. We love to have them in bread with some fried onions, tomato or BBQ sauce and another special sauce that has been a recent find from the blogosphere - Chipotle Ranch Dressing. I discovered this when looking for a vegan alternative to Subway's southwest sauce for my husband, he absolutely loves this and so do the rest of us - Thanks Matt!!!

Onto the muffins... This week I decided to combine chorizo with mini omlettes based on the Tofu Omlette recipe from Vegan Brunch which worked a treat. The end result of the muffins were a slice of Toffuti, some baby spinach leaves, a 
mini-omlette, sliced chorizo sausage, topped with some chipotle ranch dressing. These were delicious and I will definitely make weekend muffins this way again.

Served with a mixed berry smoothie.

Mini tofu omlettes (Adapted from Vegan Brunch)

Makes about 12

2 minced garlic cloves

500g silken tofu, lightly drained 
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fine black salt
1/2 cup chickpea (besan) flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
Extra olive oil for frying

Place garlic, tofu, nutritional yeast, olive oil and black salt in a food processor and pulse until a smooth texture is formed. Add the chickpea flour and cornflour to the food processor and process until combined. You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula a couple of times to ensure that all ingredients are combined into the mixture.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour a little less than a muffin size (as the mixture will spread) into the frying pan and allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes, until it is appearing to become dry and changing colour. Flip with a spatula and cook for a minute or two on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven while the other omlettes are cooking.

Depending on the size of your frying pan you may be able to cook several omlettes at a time. I was able to fit 3 at a time in my frying pan.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homecoming Pasta and a stockpile of Garlic Bread

Vegan Yum Yum was the first vegan cookbook to land in my bookshelf and I immediately fell in love with the stunning photography which is minimal in the other vegan cookbooks I own. All of the initial recipes that were trialled were huge successes at home, one of which was the simple to throw together but incredibly tasty "Hurry Up Alfredo". This became a pasta sauce that I kept going back too for so long until recently when I looked through the whole book (again) and wondered why I had never tried the Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Marinara.

This turned out to be a really tasty sauce but I nearly fell off my chair when my son declared it to be his new favourite pasta!!! He had been smitten with Alfredo for so long and would always request it if he was asked for ideas to put on the menu for the week. After a few days away with his grandma, I decided to make this for his homecoming...

This time I wanted to change it up a little by adding a something that has worked well for me with other tomato based sauces - red lentils. They are a great addition to provide a bit of protein and if cooked for the right amount of time, they break down and give the sauce a thicker consistency.

Something that bothered me about the recipe is the technique for the caramelising of the onions (of lack thereof). The onions are simply cooked for 10 minutes in the original recipe so I modified this process in my version below. This didn't seem to have an effect on the end result of the dish as the star of this sauce is the roasted eggplants.

A conundrum in the kitchen that has been bothering me lately is a quick garlic bread to have ready for those nights when the main meal is too time intensive. Word around the house is the Safeway brand ninja vegan garlic bread is not very nice (mind you, it still gets gobbled up pretty quickly when it's on offer). Whilst on the hunt for a frenchstick at my local Coles I spotted a 6 pack of hot dog rolls and a light bulb turned on in my head. I could make a big batch of garlic bread with these and freeze the unused ones for later.

I mixed together some Nuttelex (not sure of the quantity, maybe 100-150g), 6 crushed garlic cloves and a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Each roll was cut down the centre, both sides covered liberally with the garlic margarine and a piece of baking paper was placed between the roll halves so they would be easy to separate when coming out of the freezer.

On the night they turned out better than the store bought garlic bread, however I will continue to try different types of bread until I am satisfied with the best solution. In the meantime, I have my stockpile to call on in times of need...

Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Marinara (Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum)

2 eggplants
Salt (for sprinkling on the eggplants)
Olive oil spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 brown onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup red lentils
1 x 400g tin tomatoes + 2 cups tomato passata (original recipe calls for 800g tin tomatoes but I only had a 400g tin)
1/2 cup water (or more)
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
Fresh parsley, to serve

Cut the eggplants into thin discs (about 1cm thick), then make stacks of discs and slice into strips. Spread the strips out on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Allow them to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200C.

While the eggplant is resting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion has softened and beginning to colour, probably about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, stir through the sugar, cover and cook a further 20 minutes. Check regularly (maybe every 5 minutes), you will know they are ready when the onions are a deep brown colour.

Squeeze the excess moisture from the eggplant slices, then place onto a oven tray lined with baking paper and coat evenly with olive oil spray. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, after this time they should be nicely browned and softened. If not, cook for another 5-10 minutes.

The eggplant should be going into the oven when the onions have finished caramelising. Mix the garlic, basil and oregano into the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the red lentils, tomatoes, passata (if using), bring to the boil then simmer, covered for about 20 minutes until the lentils have cooked and are starting to break down. Add water as required if the sauce is too thick.

By this time, the eggplant should be ready to add. Stir it through and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta of your choice, top with fresh parsley and vegan cheese/parmesan if desired.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Beef" Rendang and Gajar Matar

Mock meat isn't something that features regularly in my kitchen but a trip to Global Green Vegetarian last weekend tempted me to purchase a couple of items. After a good hard think about what to use these products in, I decided on something that I used to enjoy as an omni which seems pretty difficult to achieve with vegies or legumes - "Beef" Rendang.

I knew just the source for it, my old faithful "Curry and Chilli cookbook"!!! After perusing the recipe which was made with 1kg of beef, it was clear that I would need to halve the rest of the ingredients in order for this to work with 300g of mock "beef". A couple of other minor adjustments were made to the recipe, instead of 250ml coconut milk I opted to use a small 165ml tin of light coconut milk as overpowering coconut flavours do not sit very well with me. In the middle of cooking the curry, I realised that I had tamarind pulp rather than concentrate so based on some quick googling doubled the amount stated.

A mock meat curry and rice couldn't make up our whole meal so I scanned through another favourite Indian cookbook given to me many years ago by my mother in law when I was going through an obsessive Indian phase. Curry used to be on the menu at least 2-3 times a week, these days my styles of cooking are a lot more diverse although I still love spicy stuff.

Flicking through "The Food of India" brought me to an old favourite, Gajar Matar (carrots and peas). It was the perfect choice for this week as my pea loathing son has been staying with his grandma for school holidays. This recipe has never been made as per the book due to the fact that it calls for 1/2 cup oil and 3 teaspoons of salt. There is no way I would use that much oil or salt, 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt has always worked for me. It has been a while since I last made it so I forgot how spicy it was (and that's coming from a chilli nut).

The whole meal was deliciously spicy and the two dishes worked well together, served with some rice and pappadums.

Pictured below are the "beef" chunks used in the recipe. I was surprised that they only contained 5 ingredients and nothing that sounded too dodgy: Soybean fiber, Chinese mushroom stem, vegetable oil, salt and vegetarian seasonings.

On a sad note, when linking to Global Green their facebook page states that the store opposite the Vic Market closed on the 18th Jan and has relocated to Braybrook :(

"Beef" Rendang (Adapted from "Curry and Chilli cookbook")

1 brown onion, chopped roughly
2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli, seeded and chopped roughly
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 x 165g tin light coconut milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder
1 strip of lemon rind
300g packet of "beef" chunks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons tamarind pulp

Place the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and a tablespoon or 2 of the coconut milk into a food processor or blender and process until a paste is formed.

Heat the oil in the medium-large sized saucepan, add the paste and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, chilli powder and stir until well combined and fragrant. Place the "beef" chunks, lemon rind and the rest of the coconut milk in the saucepan and mix well. Bring to the boil and simmer on very low heat for about 20-30 minutes until the curry is almost dry .

Finally add the lemon juice, brown sugar and tamarind and stir until heated through.

Gajar Matar (Adapted from "The Food of India")

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 large carrots, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (omit if you don't like very spicy food)
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the onion has softened.

Add the cumin seeds and turmeric and when the seeds begin to sizzle, put the carrots in and stir through for 2 minutes. Add the ground coriander, cumin, salt, chilli powder (if using) and water and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes on low heat.

Stir through the frozen peas and cover for a few more minutes or until the carrots and peas are tender. Finally mix in the garam masala and serve.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chilli sin Carne

After last night's dinner failure it was time to go back to something that features regularly in our house, Chilli sin Carne aka. Chilli con Lentils.

There must be so many versions that everyone adapts to their own taste, some people use TVP in place of lentils, others use different vegies and spice mixes but this is what mine has evolved into over the past few years. The recipe that follows uses a grated zucchini as there have been a couple hiding in my fridge waiting to be used, however this is the first time a zucchini has gone into the mix. A grated or diced carrot is usually a staple and any other vegie that fits in and needs to be used up also gets added, sometimes it's a handful of chopped mushrooms or a capsicum.

The beauty of this meal is that I normally have all of the other ingredients on hand so it's a good emergency dinner when the cupboards are needing to be replenished. A more recent addition to this and other spicy meals has been chipotle chilli powder which was purchased late last year at USA Foods and I can't seem to get enough of that smoky flavour!

Chilli sin Carne

1/2 cup dried green/brown lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder (or any chilli powder), adjust to suit your taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder (or 1 vegetable stock cube)
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste
Handful fresh coriander, chopped

Put the lentils in a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes, not allowing the lentils to boil dry. They should be starting to soften after this time.

Heat the oil in a medium-large sized saucepan, add the onion, garlic, carrot and zucchini and saute for about 10 minutes.

Add the chilli powder, cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock to the saucepan and mix through. Then add the partially cooked lentils and stir well. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the kidney beans and heat through. Add salt to taste. Finally mix in the chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve with rice, vegan sour cream, more fresh coriander and guacamole.

Rum Balls and Risotto

For my first Christmas as a vegan I really wanted to veganise my standard rum ball recipe to bring along to the family dos. Two days before Christmas that dream was shattered as a trip to my local health food store found the stocks of Soymilke had been depleted and were not going to be replenished for a few weeks :-(

After poking around at Vic Markets last Saturday I dropped into Global Green Vegetarian across the road to pick up a few bits and pieces and was delighted to find some Soymilke on the shelves!!! So last night I trialled some vegan rum balls with great success - better late than never...

Dinner for me and hubby was risotto which he normally loves but this one didn't hit the spot. I choose the Green Pea and Lemon Risotto with Roasted Capsicums from Veganomicon which turned out a tad overpowering on lemon front. Pretty sure this is my first fail from 
Veganomicon, it's not a recipe that will be repeated.

Edited to add: Peppermint and orange essenses can be substituted for rum to give these chocolately balls a totally different flavour. If this sounds more like your thing, take a look at my posts about choc-mint balls and jaffa balls.

Vegan Rum Balls
250g packet Arnott's Nice biscuits
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
330g can Soymilke soy condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essense
1 tablespoon light rum (or 2 if you prefer a bigger rum flavour)
Extra desiccated coconut, for coating

Place biscuits in a food processor and process until biscuits are a fine powder. Add the cocoa and 1/2 cup coconut and pulse a few times. Transfer mixture to a bowl then add the soy condensed milk, vanilla essense and rum and mix together until everything is well combined.

Place mixture in refrigerator for about 30 minutes which gives it a firmer texture and makes it easier to roll the balls. If the mixture is too soft, it gets very sticky and difficult to roll properly and the rum balls will not hold their shape.

Place extra coconut in a bowl. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls with your hands, and then coat in coconut. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soup for Unseasonal Summer Weather

This Melbourne weather is crazy!!! 20C in the middle of summer. As soon as the temperature drops all I want to do is cook soup as it's my favourite lunchtime winter meal. The Northern Hemisphere bloggers have had me drooling over so many delicious looking soup recipes lately so I had to make the most of this cold spell and give one a go.

Legume based soups are always at the top of my list as they are a great source of protein and can take on so many different flavours. I decided to give this Smoky Chipotle Split Pea and Barley Soup a try however being the spice nut that I am, I chopped and changed the ingredient quantities to suit my taste. The soup tasted perfect to me - true hearty spicy comfort in a bowl! My adaptation is below, the only change I would make in the future would be to omit to the pearl barley as I wasn't too keen about the texture of it in this mix. 

Spicy Smoky Chipotle Split Pea and Barley Soup (Adapted from Sarah - The Ordinary Vegetarian)

1/4 cup water
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp chipotle chilli powder 
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika

1 bay leaf
8 cups water
3 Massel "Chicken" stock cubes 
1 & 1/2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup pearl barley
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp lime juice
Vegan sour cream and coriander leaves

Heat 1/4 cup water in a large pot and saute onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.  Stir in thyme, chipotle chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and bay leaf, and saute for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Add 8 cups of water, stock cubes, and split peas. Turn up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After 1 hour of simmering the peas should be starting to break down a bit. Add in the barley, and carrots and continue simmering for 45 minutes to an hour, until the peas have completely broken down. If the soup starts to thicken too much add extra water 1 cup at a time as needed, maintaining the thickness that you prefer.

When the split peas, barley and carrots are tender, remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and stir in liquid smoke and lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, topped with a tablespoon of vegan sour cream and coriander leaves.

Eggplant with "buttermilk"

For the first time in my life I purchased a pomegranate without giving much thought as to what use it would be put to. After searching through recipes I found a delicious looking post by Cindy for Eggplant dressed in buttermilk. After a quick google search for a vegan buttermilk substitute, I gathered a few ideas for the dressing and sorta winged it from there. I have no idea what buttermilk tastes like anyway as it is not something I have ever consumed before but the end result of this dish tasted pretty good. 

Along the way I discovered that the za'atar in my pantry was actually dukkah so I quickly whizzed up a blend in my coffee grinder using this recipePictured at the back were leftover vegies from last night's dinner. At the back is a mix of roasted beetroot, sweet potato, red capsicum and red onion (these were a huge hit and will definitely be a regular side dish as they were simple to  prepare and tasted fantastic) and the greens are Braised Brazilian Shredded Kale from Viva Vegan.

Vegan Buttermilk Dressing

1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 package firm silken tofu
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove crushed garlic (probably should have used 2) 
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

Whizz the soy milk, tofu, lemon juice and garlic in a blender until well combined and smooth. Add olive oil and salt to taste.