Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kidney bean and pumpkin jamba stew

After a couple of initial recipes were made from Appetite for Reduction, I perused it again and bookmarked some meals that I wouldn't typically cook. Jambalaya is something that I have seen a lot of in American cookbooks and blogs but none of the recipes have appealed to me enough to go out and make one. It was time to give it a shot.

I felt like it was a huge gamble to make this recipe for several reasons which didn't make me feel very enthused about cooking on the night. The man and I generally have similar feelings about pumpkin, it's great when roasted but prepared any other way we can take it or leave it. My son is not the keenest in the beans department and kidney beans are right at the bottom of that list. It's not that he won't eat them, however he does have a bit of a grumble and won't rate the meal as highly if beans are included.        

When it came time to eat and everyone said that they were enjoying the meal I was astonished! At best I would have expected one or two of us to like it but it had a 100% success rate. I'm sure the spices had something to do with it. ;) 

Perhaps I should try this type of experimental cooking for us more often...   

Kidney bean and pumpkin jamba stew (Slightly modified from Appetite for Reduction)

Olive oil spray
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 green capsicum, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1 x 800g tin diced tomatoes
650g kent pumpkin, cut into approx. 2cm pieces
1/2 cup basmati rice
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Spray the base of a medium-large pot with olive oil spray. Place on a medium flame, add the onion, capsicum and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion and capsicum are becoming soft.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano and salt and fry for about a minute. Stir through the vegetable stock, tomatoes, pumpkin, rice and kidney beans. Cover the pot and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes. The rice and pumpkin should be tender after this time. 

Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spaghetti bolognese with tofu bacon

On Sunday night, the fridge had been well stocked and my cooking plans for the working week had been pretty much established, however I couldn't decide what to make for dinner. So I asked if there were any special requests. The man responded with spaghetti bolognese and my son keenly backed this up. This was an easy peasy request which I was more than happy to fulfill as it had been quite some time since we had eaten spag bol but there was one slight catch, I didn't have a bread stick to make some accompanying garlic bread with!

To serve pasta without garlic bread in this house would be like be like serving a curry without rice. It was a bit early to start preparing dinner so I decided to bake a bread stick or baguette for the sole purpose of garlic bread. I didn't give any thought to the fact that garlic bread is best made with day or two old bread though! I had made a bread stick using half of this recipe a while ago and also found some tips on forming and baking baguettes at the same time. This is how it turned out...

When we first became vegetarian, I made a spaghetti bolognese with the Sanitarium tinned vegie mince stuff and detested it immensely. It had such a strong caramel flavour that no amount of herbs seemed to be able to permeate through. Unfortunately, the man adored it and requested it often to no avail. Not long after, I discovered a bean based recipe which over time evolved into a lentil and bean sauce and this became my go-to recipe for spaghetti bolognese for several years.

Since I have been using dried TVP recently with the main purpose of using up a bag near expiry, I decided to make up a new bolognese sauce and spruce it up with some tofu bacon that was left over from another batch of scrumptious calzones the night before. The rest of it was fairly standard to my usual sauce, although I included some home-made pesto to make up for a lack of fresh herbs.

The boys were both very impressed and scoffed it down at an alarming rate. It was one of the best vegie spag bol's I have eaten and the tofu bacon added a nice touch of smoky flavour to the sauce. The garlic bread was OK but the remaining half was a lot nicer when it was prepared two days later. The spaghetti bolognese recipe will definitely be repeated.  

Tofu bacon (Adapted from a recipe on veggieboards)

350g firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Pat tofu dry and shave into long thin slices with a cheese slicer or cut finely with a knife. Mix remaining ingredients together in a large shallow dish then add the tofu slices ensuring they all get coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 8 hours to 2 days.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and spray lightly with olive oil. Cook slices in batches until golden brown and crispy on each side. Drain on paper towels. 

Bolognese sauce

1 cup TVP granules
1 teaspoon Massel "beef" stock powder 
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, mined
2 small carrots, diced
100g mushrooms, diced
700ml jar tomato passata
1/3 quantity tofu bacon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon vegan pesto
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Place TVP with the "beef" stock powder into a heatproof bowl, add the boiling water then cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, then add the carrots and mushrooms. Fry for another 5 minutes then add the passata, tofu bacon, oregano, pesto,  parsley and rehydrated TVP. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with cooked pasta of your choice, topped with cheezly if desired.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate date slice

A few years ago, the man requested a chocolate date slice recipe from his mum as it was something that he enjoyed in his childhood. At that time, he used to bake the odd cake every now and again but I don't recall him ever making this slice. It had been filed away with other recipes that I flick through occasionally but it didn't really catch my eye until recently.

For quite a while I turned my back on baking cakes and other sweet things. I think it began after successive years of birthday cake failures which always resulted in a dash to the nearest bakery to save my butt. The stress involved with these encounters was more than enough to put me off for a while, however it also totally killed my confidence in this department. I developed a mindset that I wasn't able to bake cakes anymore and went on for many years without even trying.

A brand new kitchen and inspiration from blogs was exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of things. This year has seen me produce cakes, muffins, rum balls, choc-mint balls, jaffa balls and even a couple of batches of hot cross buns. Cooking meals still fulfills me a lot more than baking but I'm pleased that this monkey is off my back now.

Now for this recipe which is a fairly simple one. There were only a couple of non-vegan ingredients in the original recipe which were butter and one egg. These were replaced with nuttelex and flaxseed/water mixture. The only issue was when the flaxseed/water mixture was added to the lukewarm water with dates and nuttelex it didn't mix in smoothly and was rather gloopy. Next time I would add the flaxseed in with the walnuts or use a commercial egg replacer product like Orgran instead. Despite this hiccup the slice turned out just fine.

The man seemed quite pleased with his childhood slice although he isn't anywhere near as harsh a judge with sweets as he can be with other meals. I find it has more of a cake-like texture than other slices I have eaten previously. It is a very nice snack and I'm sure it will be baked again in the future. 

Chocolate Date Slice 
(adapted from Dollar Cook Book #2 published by Herald Sun circa 1970's)

1 cup chopped dates
1 cup water
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine
1 cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place dates and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the margarine. Allow to cool to luke-warm then stir in the sugar and flaxseed. (I would add the flaxseed mixture in with the walnuts next time).

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix through the dates, water and margarine. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

Spread into a 30cm x 20cm lamington tin lined with baking paper and cook for about 20 minutes.

Top with chocolate icing and sprinkle with coconut.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Smoky tomato and lentil soup

I have been making so many different soups lately! A couple have been tried from Appetite for Reduction, smoky split pea which was lovely and a lentil and rice soup which I didn't enjoy as much. Others that have been popular from blogs are Ashley's curried chickpea soup, Lisa's madras-style red lentil soup and Sarah's smoky chiptole split pea and barley soup which I posted about a while ago

With so many soup recipes floating around that I had been choosing for so long it was time to find out if anyone else had a preference for something specific. Well the man definitely had something in mind! All he wanted was a simple tomato soup just like the one I used to make. I wasn't that enthused with his response so to get me a bit more excited he mentioned that it would be nice with smoked paprika. That was exactly what I needed to hear!

The tomato soup I made previously would turn out rather thin which I don't really fancy in a soup. I love how adding legumes to soup can give it some texture so I decided to include some red lentils. This was a great idea as after blending, the soup had a lovely velvety texture and it tasted beautiful. I didn't bother tracking down the old recipe for this and just made it up as I went along.  

Smoky tomato & lentil soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks
4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
600g tomatoes, chopped
800g tin diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
20 basil leaves, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or stockpot, fry the leeks for about 5 minutes until they soften. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the bay leaf, tomatoes, vegetable stock, lentils, smoked paprika and shredded basil leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes until the lentils have broken down. 

Process the soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender to process the soup in the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with fresh basil or vegan pesto. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spicy Chow Mein

After reading Johanna's post about Chow Mein recently, I felt seriously deprived. It was something that I had never eaten in my life before and sounded so simple yet delicious. I needed to try it - sooner rather than later!

It seemed like a pretty easy meal to throw together, and any meal that only uses one pot is always a bonus as it means less dishes to do. As well as changing things around to suit the vegetables that were available, I also substituted rice vermicelli for the spaghetti, TVP for the nut roast and used Massel "chicken" stock in an attempt to recreate some of the flavour of a chicken noodle soup packet. A couple of chillies were thrown in for some heat, however some curry powder would have been added as well if I had taken note of it in the old recipe half-way through Johanna's post.

Dinner was very popular as everyone enjoyed the chow mein immensely. The chillies added a decent amount of heat although they were not overpowering and the "chicken" stock brought a nice salty taste to the meal. TVP is something I don't use often and haven't been overly impressed with in the past. Having said that, I quite enjoyed it in the chow mein. Perhaps it wasn't as dominant as it has been in other dishes where I have used it in the past.

Although most meals don't get repeated around here these days (as I am nearly always trying something new), chow mein should get another look in when time is short and vegies are plentiful... 

Spicy Chow Mein (Adapted from Johanna's recipe)

100g rice vermicelli
1 cup TVP granules
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bird-eye chillies, finely sliced

2 portobello mushrooms, diced
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups of Massel "chicken" stock
1/2 cup basmati rice

8 brussel sprouts, shredded
2 small carrots, julienned
1 red capsicum, cut into thin strips

150g green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces

Place the rice vermicelli noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. After 15 minutes drain well, return the noodles to the bowl and chop roughly with a knife (I find this method easier than cutting dry noodles which fly around everywhere and make a huge mess).

Place the TVP in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Drain excess water after 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in an large pot. Fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and chilli and saute for about a minute then add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms begin to soften.

Add soy sauce, stock and rice to the pot.  Bring to the boil and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir through the brussel sprouts, carrots, capsicum and beans and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Stir through the rice vermicelli and re-hydrated TVP, allow to heat through and then serve.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

VOTM - Brussel Sprouts

I decided to do a write up on a different vegetable every month and share a few ways I like to enjoy them. So from now when you see the VOTM prefix on a post that is my acronym for Vegetable Of The Month. And to get the ball rolling, my first post will feature brussel sprouts.

Brussel sprouts are something that I ate a few times as a child, they were always boiled to within an inch of their life and I never enjoyed them. In fact, none of my siblings liked them so mum stopped trying to make us eat them after a while. My husband was keen for me to cook sprouts a while ago and when I finally did, no effort was put into finding out different ways to prepare them. They were served the only way I knew and not surprisingly, I still didn't like them.

It wasn't until last year that I began to experiment with cooking sprouts in different ways. I evolved from a sprout hater to a sprout lover overnight! Roasting was one of the first methods I enjoyed, then I moved on to steaming sprout halves with chopped carrots and finishing them off with a light fry in nuttelex and toasted almonds.

More recently, sprouts have been enjoyed in shredded form. This began last year when I tried the Vegan Yum Yum stir-fry recipe for Seven Spice Udon. Appetite for Reduction has a recipe called Shaved Brussel Sprouts which is essentially onion, garlic and shredded sprouts seasoned with salt and pepper - which is a component of the last picture in my nut roast post. For my last Viva Vegan meal - Brazilian Black Bean Stew, I changed this side dish by ditching the onion and adding in some smoked paprika which turned out superbly - recipe below.

Whilst writing up this post, I flicked back through photos that haven't been posted to see if I could dig up any more sprout shots. The below meal was something I threw together in a hurry one night, using up left over vegies and totally not expecting it to be anything special. I actually didn't take a photo the first time around and because it was so good I tried to make it again the next week. I'm not sure why I didn't get around to posting about it and wouldn't be able to give you a recipe from looking at it. I'll have to make it again some day so it can be shared.      

Brussel sprouts are something that I really enjoy experimenting with and eating these days. Not so long ago I would have shied away from recipes that included them. Now I am always on the hunt for different ways to use them!

Shredded smoky sprouts (Adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

Olive oil spray
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
10 brussel sprouts
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the sprouts, slice off knobbly end off the bottom and remove the outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half and then slice into strips.

Spray a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil spray and heat on a medium flame. Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the sprouts, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Fry for about 7 minutes, until the leaves become brown and crispy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jaffa Balls

Without intending to be overly monotonous, I wanted to share my latest rendition of the old traditional rum ball recipe, jaffa balls.

My baking of sweet things has been solely limited to chocolatey balls in recent times, as they seem to be a growing obsession with the man and son. As soon as a batch has been scoffed, I am under constant pressure to produce more (thankfully they are a cinch to throw together). If the batch runs out mid week and there is no soymilke condensed milk in the pantry, my campers are not happy at all as they have to wait until at least Saturday for their fix when I can make that next trip to the health food store.

Choc-mint balls have been a remarkable success and since they were introduced, left the standard old rum balls for dead. It led me to pondering about other types of flavours that could be used in these balls. Chocolate and peppermint has always been a favoured combination since my childhood, I would always opt for a choc-mint sweet over straight chocolate any day of the week. Not far behind would have to be chocolate and orange. Terry's chocolate orange balls and jaffas are yummy treats that immediately spring to mind from that genre.

And so with yet another single ingredient substitution, jaffa balls were born! A simple change from peppermint to orange essense gave these balls exactly the orangey touch they needed. Of course, they were declared to be the new favourites although I will be interested to see if they are still living up to their current hype a few batches down the track!

Jaffa balls

250g packet Arnott's Nice biscuits
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
330g can Soymilke soy condensed milk
2 teaspoons Maharajah's Choice orange essense
Extra desiccated coconut, for coating

Process biscuits in a food processor until they become a fine powder. Add the cocoa and 1/2 cup coconut to the food processor and pulse a few times. Transfer mixture to a bowl then add the soy condensed milk and orange essense. Mix together until everything is well combined.

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

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

Cheezy Nut Roast Lasagne

Lasagne is one of those things I haven't been happy with in either the vegetarian nor vegan varieties that I have tried. No recipe has been anywhere near as good as the one I used to make back in my carnivorous days which comprised a rich meaty tomato based sauce along with a cheesy creamy bechamel. Apart from the recipe trialled from Appetite for Reduction a few weeks ago, lasagne is something I have shied away from making for quite some time as it hasn't seemed worth the effort.

Whilst in the process of veganising a nut roast recipe for Johanna's nut roast round-up, I was faced with left over nut roasts a number of times that were quite handy to stuff into sandwiches for a quick lunch. After the final nut roast was made to a satisfactory standard, I stashed away the remnants in the freezer so they could be incorporated into a different meal at a later date. Johanna has provided so many uses for nut roast left-overs on her blog from stuffed peppers to chow mein which inspired me to put the remainder of the last nut roast to a more interesting use.

After pondering different ideas, I settled upon making a nut roast lasagne. Thoughts about what to put in the tomato-nut roast sauce were already formulating in my mind and rather pairing this with a bechamel sauce, I decided to go with something a little different - a variation of the Easy Cheezy Breezy sauce from Appetite for Reduction. I loved this sauce the moment I tried it and have incorporated it (and made a few small tweaks depending on the use) into a few other meals in the last few weeks.

Lasagne sheets are incredibly easy to make with a pasta machine and taste so much better than the store-bought kind so I threw together a quick pasta dough including some wholemeal flour.

My gut feeling was that this lasagne was going to work and taste great, however I wasn't prepared for the reactions of the rest of the house. They totally LOVED it and it was given 10/10!!! The nut roast gave the lasagne an incredibly hearty (dare I say it, almost meaty) flavour and was without a doubt the best vegie lasagne we have tried. I think there is still a bit of room for improvement, the dried oregano wasn't really necessary and the quantity of the cheezy sauce could have been increased a little.

Ahh nut roast. You have been the bearer of some lovely roast meals but who would have thought you could restore my faith in vegie lasagne...

Nut Roast Lasagne

Pasta dough

1 cup unbleached plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/2 cup water

Tomato-nut roast sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 large tomato, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
400ml tomato passata
100ml water (to rinse out passata jar)
1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons vegan basil pesto
1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 quantity Mrs Myrtleberry's nut roast
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Cheezy sauce

2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup unbleached plain flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Massel vegetable stock powder
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Remaining ingredients

75g baby spinach leaves, shredded
cornflake crumbs, for topping

Preheat oven to 200C.

Mix the plain flour and wholemeal flour together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Work in the flour from the sides until a dough is formed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until a soft pliable dough is formed. Place into a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened then stir through the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the diced tomato and cook for a couple of minutes until it begins to break down. Add the carrots, tomato passata, water, tomato paste, pesto and oregano, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes until the carrots begin to soften. Stir through the crumbled nut roast and cook for 5 more minutes then add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Place nutritional yeast, flour, onion powder, garlic powder and vegetable stock powder in a saucepan and mix to combine. Add the water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well to ensure that no lumps form. Heat the sauce over medium, stirring constantly until it comes to the boil and has thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir through dijon mustard.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out the dough into sheets with a pasta machine or with a rolling pin.

In a large rectangular baking dish, spread about 1/4 of the cheezy sauce on the bottom then place a layer of lasagne sheets on top. Spread 1/3 of the tomato-nut roast sauce on the lasagne sheets, then 1/4 of the cheezy sauce. Repeat this layering with the shredded spinach added before the next addition of tomato-nut roast sauce. For the top layer, spread the final third of the tomato-nut roast sauce and the last quarter of the cheezy sauce then sprinkle cornflake crumbs or fresh bread crumbs for the topping.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15-20 minutes until browned slightly.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Portobello Feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew)

OK, this may not be the most attractive meal (plus the photo is really crappy and doesn't do it justice) but what it lacks in appearance is definitely made up in flavour. 

It seems that a month doesn't pass by without me posting something from Viva Vegan by Terry Hope Romero. My love for chorizo sausages has been declared several times, Cindy and Michael gave me inspiration to try the delicious tofu chicharrones as well as gallo pinto (a rice and beans dish from Costa Rica) and cilantro-lime rice has become my staple rice side to serve with these wonderful Latin American meals. Prior to my possession of this wonderful tome I had almost no idea about food south of the Mexican border. Viva Vegan has given me the opportunity to experiment with different food from countries like Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Argentina and Brazil as well as expanding on my Mexican repertoire.

Portobello Feijoada aka. Brazilian black bean stew with portobellos had been on my list to try for some time. It's one of the few recipes in the book that uses TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), and as I am trying to use up a bag that is nearing expiry it was the perfect time to give it a try. Like quite a few other recipes in Viva Vegan it requires a bit of forward planning. Dried black beans need to be soaked for at least 8 hours and then cooked for 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the age of your beans. After this prep is out of the way, the rest of the meal comes together pretty easily. 

The feijoada turned out to be another success! It's a big hearty filling meal that is chock full of protein but despite this everyone managed to thoroughly clean their plates. I love black beans and find that cooking them yourself gives them a superior taste to the tinned variety and for recipes like this, the bean cooking liquid is used for a even greater depth of flavour. Terry suggested serving this with Brazilian Braised Kale and Savoury Orange Rice. I have made both of these before however none of us really liked the orange rice and I didn't have any kale on hand this time around. So I fried up some shredded brussel sprouts with some garlic and smoked paprika for our greens and cooked my favourite cilantro-lime rice. 

My only regret was that I halved the recipe. When I recently made Drunken Beans with Chorizo there was so much left over and I was the only one who could handle the spiciness. I can't recall exactly how many times I had these left-overs for lunch but it was enough that I was glad to see the end of it. So I erred on the side of caution this time, just in case we didn't like it! Unfortunately, it wasn't the case this time and I regretfully handed over the few remnants to the man for his lunch the next day. His feedback was that it tasted even better than the night before which I didn't really want to hear. At least I know for next time! 

Portobello Feijoada (Adapted from Viva Vegan)

1 cup dried black beans
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup TVP granules (recipe uses TVP chunks which I didn't have)
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine (beer or vegetable stock can also be used)
4 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 red chilli, finely diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper 

Place the black beans in a large bowl, cover with water and allow to soak for at least 8 hours. Drain the beans, then rinse well and place in a medium saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of water and a bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the beans have softened.

Place the TVP in a small bowl and add boiling water. After 15 minutes, drain off the excess water.

When the beans are almost ready, heat the olive oil in a large pot and cook the garlic for about 30 seconds until it sizzles. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent.  Add the wine, beer or vegetable stock, increase the heat to a simmer and stir to deglaze the pot. Mix in the mushrooms, chilli, smoked paprika, cumin, thyme and cook for 5-10 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. 

If you own an immersion blender (which I don't), remove a cup of black beans and bean broth from the bean cooking pot and puree. Alternatively, use a potato masher to break up as many of the beans in the pot as you prefer (I kept them quite chunky). Add all of the beans, bean cooking liquid, vegetable stock and TVP to the mushroom pot, bring to a rapid simmer and partially cover, stirring occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes for the flavours to develop.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mmmm Moussaka...

When I became vegan there were quite a few vegetarian meals that I wanted to be able to reproduce a tasty vegan equivalent of, moussaka was one of them. I only ever tried one recipe as it seemed perfect to me and was always devoured at home or any gathering it was brought along to.

A couple of months ago I had an attempt at making a vegan version. As I wasn't totally impressed with the result, a little tweaking was required to elevate it back to the delicious moussaka it previously had been. 

The main element that needed further work was the fetta cheese replacement. On my first attempt I used a variation of Carla's spanakopita filling which I loved in that flaky pie when I made it however it wasn't quite right for this meal. The texture was too creamy which made it difficult to spread evenly and the flavour not quite strong enough. This time I made a batch of Betta Feta from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stephaniak which was simple to put together but required a few days of maturing in the fridge.

The most time consuming part in making this moussaka is the initial cooking of the vegetables, however it is essential to the final result. The vegies really soak up the flavours of the tomato-lentil sauce when they are subjected to this pre-cooking step. I used to fry up the vegie slices in a non-stick frying pan and after some time I switched to using my BBQ to grill the vegies. This brings 
wonderful smoky flavours to the moussaka plus the added bonus of more cooking space to grill the vegies on which results in less time spent on the task. As my BBQ isn't in great working order I opted to try something different. The potato and zucchini slices were cooked in a non-stick frying pan and the eggplants placed under a griller until browned. 

After the lentil-tomato sauce is ready and the vegetables are grilled or fried, it's time to layer the dish. This is the fun part! I start with half of the potatoes on the bottom, plug any gaps with zucchini, followed by a third of the eggplant slices with more zucchini to fill spaces. Half of the sauce gets spread on this layer then half of the tofu feta. This sequence is repeated, then the moussaka is finished with the remaining eggplant and zucchini.

I was so thrilled with how this moussaka turned out and am very happy that I can still make an equally delicious vegan version of a favourite dish. In the past I have referred to my moussaka as a labour of love and indeed it is just that! It's not something I would attempt on a weeknight however it is well worth the effort when you have time up your sleeve on the weekend.

Vegan Moussaka (Adapted from

Vegetables for layering

2 medium eggplants, thinly sliced
3 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the potato and zucchini slices under a griller until slightly browned or fry them in a lightly oiled pan until browned and softened. 

After the eggplant has rested for 30 minutes, pat dry with paper towels, then grill or fry the eggplant slices.

Tomato Lentil Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato passata
1 x 400g tin lentils
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic until lightly browned. Pour in vinegar and cook until the liquid has reduced. Stir in tomatoes, tin of lentils including the juice, oregano and parsley. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

Betta Feta Tofu (Adapted from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook)

350g of firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 cup water
1/3 cup white miso
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Place tofu cubes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Drain well.

Whisk together remaining ingredients, add the drained tofu and let cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Chill uncovered in the refrigerator until cold to the touch. Cover and chill for at least 2-7 days before serving.

Only half of this batch was used in the moussaka. Remove half of the tofu cubes when you are ready to use them and chop finely.

Bechamel Sauce

2 tablespoon dairy free margarine
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups soy milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pinch ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan melt the margarine. Stir through the flour then add the soy milk 1/2 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly to ensure that there are no lumps. Bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly until thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add nutmeg.


In a large rectangular casserole dish place a layer of potatoes, zucchini and eggplant, then add half of the tomato-lentil sauce and crumble half of the tofu filling over the top. Repeat this layering then finish with a layer of eggplant and zucchini.

Cover and bake at 190C for 25 minutes. Uncover and pour bechamel sauce over vegetables. Bake, uncovered, for another 25 to 30 minutes.