Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Soup, casserole, cake and a new family member

Life has been a little crazy over the past couple of weeks which means that blogging has taken a backseat. There are so many posts I would love to be writing as I've been cooking up plenty of interesting meals, unfortunately there aren't enough hours in the day so I haven't had the time to follow most of them up with a blog post.

Our time has largely been devoted to our new family member Ollie. Long time readers of my blog may remember the heartache we experienced last year with our dog Jasper after he was diagnosed with a bone cancer. Jasper successfully went through a hind leg amputation and lived an active and happy 6 months before deteriorating rapidly when the cancer spread to his lungs. It was a devastating experience and has taken almost a year for us to feel ready to accept another dog into our home.

We went through a lengthy period of attempting to adopt a dog via various rescue organisations. After a lot of waiting, red tape and many close calls we ended up finding an older puppy outside of these organisations that was in just as much need, if not more, of a good caring home. A group of young international students had purchased a border collie puppy from a breeder obviously without having any knowledge of dogs or this particular breed of working dog. The pup had been confined to the inside of their house for 5 months, was never walked, trained or even desexed and had developed into a bundle of frenetic energy that just wanted to jump all over people. They were so desperate to get rid of the problem they had unknowingly created and didn't even bother to say goodbye when we took him off their hands!

In just over a week with us Ollie has learnt to stop jumping on people (most of the time), walk on the lead, sit, stay, drop and go to his bed. He is a sweet pup that is very eager to please but there are still a lot of areas where he needs work, including learning not to chase our dear old cat Monty! It has been an exhausting period as he can be the equivalent of a badly behaved toddler at times although it is wonderful to have a canine companion around the house again.

A couple of weekends ago I pulled up some more borage plants to make soup. This dark green soup was very basic and adapted from an old celtic recipe which we initially enjoyed and likened the flavour of the borage to spinach. Unfortunately the leftovers didn't fare as well! The following day the soup was very thick and set like jelly. It thinned out a little after it was reheated although the flavour wasn't as nice as it had been on the first day. The man thought that it tasted like egg yolk and although we did finish our bowls I'm not sure that I would use borage this way again.

The other night I baked a tortilla casserole to use up some very old corn tortillas that had been in the fridge for ages. I made the tortilla casserole from Viva Vegan a while ago and didn't have the right ingredients for it this time so I created my own version. Rather than topping it with a creamy nut/tofu based sauce, I crumbled some plain corn chips followed by grated cheezly. The sauce that was spread within the tortillas included pinto beans, corn kernels and diced mushrooms. I love the concept of a tortilla casserole as it's like a Mexican styled lasagne, this recipe is simple and versatile as it could be changed up to suit whatever vegetables or beans happen to be on hand. This meal was fantastic and just as tasty as I recall the one in Viva Vegan, it's definitely something I'll be repeating again as it was a hit with all of us.

A recent acquisition to my ever growing pile of cookbooks is World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I wrote about Bryanna's delicious tofu "fish" fingers recently which is a recipe that is posted on her blog. I have made a handful of recipes from World Vegan Feast recently and they have all been fantastic. I had been eyeing off a recipe for a lebanese semolina cake with lemon syrup from the book and ended up making it with limes as my mother in law gave me heaps from her tree. The semolina cake which is also known as sfoof was supposed to be topped with slivered almonds and as there were none in the house I used some chopped pistachios instead. This cake had a nice tangy flavour from the syrup, a different texture from the semolina and it was so lovely and moist. The syrup is supposed to keep the cake fresher for a longer period. I'm not sure we will be able to test that theory as I have a feeling that it won't last long around here.

Hopefully I'll be able to get back into more regular blogging soon, for the time being I'll leave you with these three recipes.

Borage soup (Adapted from a recipe on celtnet)

2 tablespoons dairy free margarine
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup basmati rice
4 cups vegan chicken stock (I used Massel stock powder)
450g borage leaves, washed thoroughly
½ cup cashews
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnish borage flowers

Melt the margarine in a stockpot over medium heat and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rice and stir thoroughly so that all of the grains are coated. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Stir through the borage leaves and allow to cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cashews, water, lemon juice and salt in a blender and process until a smooth paste results. Stop the blender and scraping down the sides a few times if necessary. Transfer the contents to a bowl and refrigerate. Rinse out the blender with warm water.

When the borage has cooked for 20 minutes, transfer the contents of the pot to the blender and process in batches until it is completely smooth. Return the blended soup to the stockpot and reheat gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the soup ladled into bowl with a dollop of the cashew cream, garnished with borage flowers.

Tortilla casserole (Inspired by Viva Vegan)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
150 g mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 x 400g tin pinto beans, drained and rinsed
400g fresh tomatoes, chopped (or use a tin)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water
½ teaspoon smoked salt (or use regular)
6 small corn tortillas (15cm diameter), cut into halves
Large handful of plain corn chips
100g cheezly, grated
Serve with cashew cream, guacamole and salsa picante

Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat the oil in a deep sided frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic for a minute, then add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika and stir until fragrant then add the corn kernels, pinto beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, water and smoked salt. Allow to cook for 10 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 20cm x 20cm baking dish and layer a couple of tortillas on top. Repeat the layering another 2 times finishing with the sauce on top. Crumble a large handful of corn chips on top followed by grated cheezly. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve with cashew cream, guacamole and salsa picante.

Sfoof - Lebanese semolina cake with lime syrup (Adapted from World Vegan Feast)

¾ cup raw sugar
¾ cup water
grated zest of 1 lime
juice of 4 limes (about 2/3 cup)
½ cup pastry flour (low gluten)
1½ cups fine semolina
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups raw sugar
1 cup soy milk
zest of 1 lime
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pistachios, chopped roughly

Place the sugar, water and lime zest in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir through the lime juice thoroughly, then pour the contents into a jug and refrigerate until required.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper and grease lightly with dairy free margarine. Combine the pastry flour, semolina, turmeric, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. With a hand held mixer, beat together the soy milk, sugar and lime zest in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the contents of the small bowl and the oil and beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour the batter into the cake tin and sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Bake for 35 minutes on until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake for 10 minutes, then remove carefully from the tin. Using a bamboo skewer, pierce small holes all over the top of the cake then pour the cooled lime syrup on top.


  1. Ohmehgoodness, Ollie is just adorable. But what a sad start to life! I'm sure he is very, very happy to be living with you all now!

    1. Yes he is very adorable indeed! Ollie seems to be quite settled with us and I'm sure his new life is a huge improvement.

  2. Congratulations on the newest family member! I'm glad that he's found a family who will take his particular needs into account. It sounds like it's going to be a good fit, at least once he relaxes with Molly. :)

    1. We are taking things very slowly with acquainting the two of them as Ollie is just too excited by the sight of Monty. Thankfully Monty is taking it very well and seems to know that we have the situation under control.

  3. ollie looks beautiful - and I am so glad to hear he is in a home that understands him - I remember when I used to walk my parents' dog regularly bumping into an American with a border collie who was shocked at how active they were - sounds like you must have space in your home and space in your life for walking him.

    Nice little round up of meals - I love that sort of mexican lasagna too - must make one again soon - am sure crumbled corn chips would go down well here - and the sfoof sounds great (I also am developing quite a backlog of blog recipes - must stop getting inspired!)

    1. The man has done a fair bit of research about border collies recently but even that didn't fully prepare us for the little ball of nuclear energy we have adopted. They are extremely active dogs but mental stimulation can tire them out as much as physical activity. We are all getting a lot more exercise these days though!

      It's so hard not to get carried away with the bookmarks, I'm always getting inspired by recipes and forever wishing that I had endless hours to cook it all.

  4. Hooray for Ollie! I can't believe how quickly he's integrated and is learning how to behave. So wonderful that you were able to give him a home!

    And that soup! Crazy green. Stinks about the leftovers, but you've got to love how pretty it was the first day!

    1. Yes, he is a very clever dog and has handled going from a totally chaotic environment to one where he is getting all the discipline and structure he needs beautifully. He has made so much progress but we are still working out a few things.

      I loved the colour of the soup and was shattered with the state of the leftovers. Oh well, it's back to the borage drawing board...

  5. This is certainly a post worth waiting for Mel! First, congratulations on welcoming Ollie - I'm really happy that you're able to have a dog around the house again and clearly he was in significant need of being rescued (what a horrible story). I'm sure the training will be eventful but it sounds like you've made a great start!

    I am also very keen to make that tortilla casserole, which looks a bit similar to the stacked quesadillas I sometimes make (and which we both love, so a variant would be welcomed). And that sfoof looks and sounds amazing; I am now thinking hard about possible upcoming cake occasions. If I can't think of any I might just have to make it for us :)

    1. It took us ages to feel ready for another dog and even then we still didn't feel really ready! Having Ollie around has been wonderful but it has also brought back so many memories so it's also been difficult from that point of view.

      You're right that the tortilla casserole is similar to your stacked quesadillas, I must try them one day! The sfoof actually did last about 5 days without being eaten and it was still very moist after this time so it could be a good one to make for the two of you...

  6. Congrats on the new family addition! I'm glad you saved him from that situation. It upsets me greatly when people don't research pet needs before deciding to get one. Looks like he'll be in good hands now.

    Thanks for all the delicious looking recipes! The tortilla casserole sounds especially good.

    1. It's so sad that there are so many pets in awful situations, we spent a lot of time searching for the right dog for us and it was heartbreaking to see so many in need. I would love to save them all! It feels wonderful to have given Ollie a new life as he is a sweet little guy.

  7. Hello Ollie! He looks adorable.

    1. Oh yes, he is certainly adorable and has made our house brighter again.