Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Haggis - "That recipe seems very familiar..."

Traditional haggis is a meal that has never appealed to me. In my pre-veg days, certain types of meat had a taboo attached to them and consuming internal organs of animals was something I couldn't understand how anyone in their right mind would find appetising. When I saw Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe's haggis recipe, it was a different story. The recipe sound intriguing and somewhat reminiscent of a nut roast. I was particularly interested in some of the creative ways that Johanna had put the leftovers to use, in haggis nachos and haggis pizza.

Haggis pizza sounded very appealing and after the success of the man's vegan meat lover pizza's using leftover bean burgers, I decided this would be the recipe to try! My main goal of making haggis was not to eat it in the traditional manner but to use it as a pizza topping which didn't seem right. The evening that I prepared the haggis, my veggie crisper was almost bare so I omitted the mushrooms and doubled the amount of kidney beans. The only other change I made was to add a couple of cloves of minced garlic as it's something I like to include on a regular basis.

After sitting in the fridge overnight, my prepared haggis was ready for pizza making. I had planned to make 2 pizzas, a margherita and the haggis pizza. The haggis pizza was layered with tomato pizza sauce and vegan pesto mixed together, garlic, cheezly, chopped haggis, capsicum, mushrooms and spring onions. Sometimes I drizzle a bit of sweet chilli or BBQ sauce on top of our pizzas, however on this occasion I wasn't sure which would suit and left it plain. After cutting the pizza we chose our favoured sauces and found that the haggis pizza worked well with either. It was a delicious pizza, the mixed herbs in the haggis seemed to really shine through and add so much flavour.      

After the success of the haggis pizza there was still 3/4 of the haggis remaining so I decided to freeze 1/4 for another pizza in the future and use the rest in a meal complimented with vegetables. The haggis was served with gravy alongside a potato/sweet potato mash, roasted carrots and roast cauliflower and broccoli drizzled with garlic margarine. This was another popular meal and my son commented he preferred the haggis over the nut roasts I had made.

Johanna's recipe had been bookmarked for a good while before I finally managed to give it a try. The day after I made it, Steph announced a blogging event called "That recipe seems very familiar..." to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Planet VeGMeL. The idea is to cook a recipe posted by another Melbourne veg*n blogger and then write a post about it. This is my first entry for the event although with the huge volume of recipes I store up, it may not be the last!

Vegan Haggis (Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe)

1/2 heaped cup mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans)
4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
2/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup oatmeal
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon Marmite (or other yeast extract)
1 tablespoon whisky
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 teaspoons mixed herbs

Process the mixed nuts in a coffee grinder until they become powdery (This step was performed in error as I didn't notice in the recipe that the nuts were finely chopped which would add some more texture).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a large frying pan, melt half of the margarine and cook the nuts, oats and oatmeal for about 3 minutes over medium heat. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl

Place the onion, garlic, carrot and beans in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is very fine. Melt the remaining margarine in the frying pan and cook the vegetables and beans for about 2 minutes. Add the oats and nut mixture to the frying pan with the vegetable mixture. Mix in the yeast extract, whisky, lemon juice, pepper and mixed herbs and cook for another 5 minutes.

Spread the mixture evenly in a 28cm x 18cm tin lined with baking paper. Cook for 40 minutes in the oven or until the top has browned and the mixture feels firm to the touch .

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recipe Index

After the inception of Veganise This, a to-do list was written mainly related to the design and navigation of the blog. I always seem to have a backlog of posts to write and never enough hours in the day so my to-do list has been sorely neglected.

I decided to take a short break from recipe posting so I could concentrate on building a simple recipe index which has just been published. It is a cut down version of a grand plan I had for the index but this one will have to suffice for now.

It was an interesting exercise as it highlighted areas of cooking on the blog that have been overlooked like dips/snacks, salads and breakfasts which I must rectify. It was surprising that only 6 soups have made it onto the blog so far as 18 new varieties have been trialled in my kitchen this year.

So click away and check out my recipe list! Please let me know if there are any broken links or other errors.

Friday, August 26, 2011

VOTM - Broccoli

VOTM generated some interest with the man and son which I have found somewhat amusing as they usually don't have much involvement in my blog (other than eating and providing the odd bit of feedback). After I finished last month's cauliflower post, they both made separate requests for my vegetable of focus for the following month. I went with the man's choice this time as he selected broccoli and given that my last two VOTM posts were from the cruciferous family I decided to keep rolling with it. 

We have increased our consumption of broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts this winter and one of the reasons is due to our dear dog Jasper. When he was diagnosed with bone cancer earlier this year and we made the difficult decision to have the cancer removed (which meant a leg amputation), I spent a lot of time researching an anti-cancer diet for dogs. We were aware that after the removal of his bone cancer, there was a potential risk of a secondary cancer forming. 

Did someone say broccoli? Mmm...

Jasper deserved to have the best possible chance of leading a long and happy three legged life after going through such a big operation so his diet had to change. One thing that was common in my research was that cruciferous vegetables are most suitable for a dog's anatomy (therefore easier for them to digest) and their cancer fighting properties are beneficial to dogs as they are to humans. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage and asian greens have since become a component of Jasper's nightly meal solely for this reason. Jasper is showing no other signs of cancer five months after the operation (and we hope it continues this way) although I'll never really know whether the change in his diet has assisted in any way.

Broccoli is a vegetable that has been a part of our meals for many years although more recently I have been putting it to more interesting uses than just serving it steamed on the side. Vegan Yum Yum's broccoli dhal and broccoli/mushroom bake are a couples of recipes that were enjoyed in the past and more recently bistro broccoli chowder and 40 cloves chickpeas and broccoli  from Appetite for Reduction. Spinach was pushed aside to make way for broccoli in my latest version of home-made cannelloni and broccoli burgers were a great find thanks to the posts from Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe and Cindy and Michael of Where's the Beef. Broccoli also manages to find it's way into the majority of my stir-fry's and tastes amazing when roasted and is slightly charred. 

This simple broccoli-based pasta sauce is a work in progress... 

Deciding on a recipe for this month wasn't the easiest task. One of my intents with VOTM is to post a simple side dish for the particular vegetable of focus, however it was difficult to make up my mind this time around. Out of the many broccoli recipes I had been playing around with, none was particularly simple and there were definitely no side dishes! Our holiday to FNQ came and went at the end of last month and I missed my VOTM post for July which gave me some breathing space to ponder.

When serving steaming broccoli as a side one night, I decided to toss it with some garlic margarine that was left over from making garlic bread. This worked quite well although I found that steaming the broccoli left some water remnants which watered down the margarine to a degree. My alternative method was to roast the broccoli florets and serve them drizzled with garlic that had been cooked in dairy-free margarine. I preferred the second method and also cooked some cauliflower in the same fashion. They were both delicious and I could have eaten a truckload! 

I decided to post these couple of quick sides for this month as they are very simple, tasty and moreish. In fact, when rushing to get food on the table this week I was questioned why the plain steamed broccoli was not covered in garlic marg. It seems like this one will be a regular in the future...

Now's it time to get my thinking cap on for my son's request which I have a feeling could be another challenge!

Broccoli with garlic margarine - two ways

Cut a head of broccoli into florets and use as much garlic and dairy-free margarine as you like!
  1. Steam broccoli florets until just tender, drain well, then toss with dairy-free margarine and minced garlic.
  2. Roast broccoli florets at 200C for 20 minutes on a baking tray sprayed with olive oil. Meanwhile, melt dairy-free margarine in a small frying pan and cook minced garlic until it turns golden. Drizzle the garlic margarine over the broccoli when serving.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'll be burgered if these taste like tempeh!

Tempeh has been troubling me for many months. Several experiments with tempeh have left me totally underwhelmed and extremely frustrated. Despite my efforts at pre-steaming, marinating, baking, stewing and pan-frying, tempeh has always left a funny taste in my mouth, literally speaking.

My first experiment was a tempeh bacon recipe to which the man, son and I had an unanimous agreement. It wasn't that bad but we all preferred tofu bacon. My next foray with tempeh was using a Viva Vegan recipe, tempeh asado. The tempeh was pre-steamed to remove the bitter taste, marinated in lime juice and spices and then pan-fried. The only thing that made me happy that night was the delicious gallo pinto (Costa Rican refried rice and beans) that was served with the unappetising tempeh. Tempeh asado was the first recipe from Viva Vegan to get a big thumbs down from me.

A smoky tempeh, white beans and greens stew from Appetite for Reduction was a slight improvement on my last tempeh trial although I did ensure that the amount of beans and greens on my plate was significantly greater than the tempeh pieces. Baked marinated tempeh was my next attempt which was another miserable fail. At this stage, the man was the only one interested in tempeh but I felt like I needed to persevere. Surely, there must be a way that I could enjoy it!

The tempeh experiments were given a rest for a couple of months until I recently discovered a packet of marinated tempeh hiding in the back of the fridge which was almost due to expire. I thought about how to use the tempeh and decided on burgers as they are usually a winner and were something that I hadn't tried yet. A quick search let me to Vegan Dad who had a tempeh burger recipe that sounded promising as it was full of an abundance of herbs and spices plus none of his recipes had let me down so far.

My son made a face when I told him we were having tempeh burgers for dinner. Like me, he hadn't been a fan up to that point. I tried to keep his interest up by stressing that I had high hope for these burgers and that we needed to keep an open mind. One bite was all that it took to win us both over! The burgers were delicious, so many wonderful herbs and spices could be detected (they were probably over flavoured due to using pre-marinated tempeh but it worked for us!) and there was no disgusting taste at all this time around.  

Although I have finally had success with a tempeh recipe, I'm still no convert and would choose tofu over tempeh any day of the week. I would like to keep trying tempeh recipes in the hope that it will grow on me eventually. So I wanted to ask bloggers and readers their thoughts about tempeh.

What's your favorite tempeh recipe? Was it love at first bite or did it take some time for you to embrace tempeh?

Tempeh burgers (Adapted from Vegan Dad)

300g packet marinated tempeh, grated
1/2 generous cup breadcrumbs
1/3 generous cup gluten flour
2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon massell gravy powder
2-4 tablespoons water (I used about 2.5)

Place the grated tempeh, breadcrumbs, gluten flour, ground fennel seed, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, garlic and onion powder in a large bowl and mix well. Add the tamari, BBQ sauce, ketchup and enough water to make a pliable dough. Knead in the bowl for a few minutes until the ingredients are well combined.

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then flatten into a thin burger. Spray a frying pan with olive oil spray and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Mercy Seat

The man enthusiastically showed me an article from The Age about the 5 best vegetarian burgers last Saturday night. Before he had scrolled down the page I immediately knew that the vegan Southern Fried Chicken burger in the list was going to be the one from Gasometer that everyone has been raving about. We had planned to grab something to eat after the Ban Live Export rally the following day but unfortunately Gasometer isn't open for lunches so I suggested that we try The Mercy Seat instead.

We had a quick look at their small but interesting and almost totally vegan menu and made up our minds pretty quickly. The man was dead set on ordering the Creole Chicken soul burger (I don't think he even looked at the rest of the menu) and after some deliberation, I selected the blackened tofu burger. When our burgers arrived we were both blown away by how delicious they were. My tofu burger was full of tasty morsels of salty, spicy tofu chunks along with tasty mushrooms, avocado, salad and a tangy mayonnaise. When asked whether we would like a bottle of hot sauce to try, the man eagerly grabbed the opportunity and has not stopped raving about it since.

The coffees were also an impressive standard so we made plans to go back the following Saturday. This time I ordered the scrambled tofu but the man couldn't be swayed from the chicken burger. The amount of spinach present in the scramble had me smiling as I do enjoy my greens and these ones were perfectly done, just wilted and not soggy at all. The scramble flavour reminded the man of curried eggs when he had a bite of it. Perhaps it did have some curry powder included but I'm sure there were a few more spices to it than just that.

We have enjoyed our meals and the service has been prompt and friendly on both visits. I'm happy to pay $10 - $12 for such tasty good quality vegan food and wish I lived closer so I could visit more often.

The Mercy Seat has also been given the thumbs up by Where's The Beef twice, In the Mood for Noodles, Vetti and Garden of Yoda.

The Mercy Seat
31 Johnston St, Collingwood
Open Wed-Sun 8am - 4pm (The Mercy Seat closed down in 2012)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mexican Fiesta

Last Saturday night, we had our first official family gathering post renovations. Although the majority of our renovations were completed early this year, we wanted to hold off on dinner parties until we purchased a new dining table. The year has been slipping away too quickly and as we are no closer to purchasing a table, we decided it was time to pull out the old trestle tables and have the man's family over for a meal.

Over the last couple of years we have fallen into the habit of having curry nights in colder months with everyone bringing a curry or two to share. As this was to be our first hosted dinner, I wanted to do something different and suggested a Mexican night which was warmly received.

I planned to make enchiladas and the man suggested that I make two different kinds, potato-chickpea-spinach filling with tomatillo sauce and smoky tofu and black bean filling with tomato enchilada sauce. As well as guacamole, salsa and cashew crema, I felt it would be a good time to try out a salad from Viva Vegan and settled upon the classic cabbage salad with cilantro-lime dressing. And then I felt like there should be some sort of appetiser and a dessert and went off to explore some further options.

On Friday night, my preparations began. I wrote out a task list, marked a few things that could be knocked off in advance and away I went. A couple of hours (and several dishes) later, two different sauces and fillings had been made for the enchiladas, black beans and cashews were soaking and the dressing for the salad was made.

The following day I made two types of flans from Viva Vegan for dessert, vanilla coconut and coffee flavoured (cafe con leche). They had the same caramel topping with a touch of lime juice so it was simple to prepare my moulds in advance with a double batch of this mixture. The fillings were fairly easy to make using agar flakes as the setting agent.

A few years ago I made a 7 layer dip to take to a party and it was very popular although I found it difficult to enjoy as there were too many layers to appreciate at once. I decided to cut back on the layers this time around and wound up with what I will call a triple layer dip. It starts with a layer of refried beans, followed by cashew crema and the top layer is a mixture of chopped avocado, tomato, olives and coriander. The dip was enjoyed by all and the man thought that it deserved a place on my blog. Other family members requested that the cashew crema recipe be posted as they thought it was fantastic as part of the dip and an accompaniment to the main meal.

It was great fun cooking so much food and I enjoyed dabbling in desserts which is something I should do more often!

Triple layer dip

Refried bean layer

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chilli (or to taste), finely chopped
310g tin pinto beans
1/2 cup cooked black beans
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup water
salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir through the garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute. Add the pinto beans, black beans, cumin, oregano and water and simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat. Mash the beans with a potato masher or a fork until they reach the level of smoothness you want. Season with salt to taste.

Cashew crema layer (From Viva Vegan)

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar (or use other sweetener)

Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours. Drain and rinse then place into a blender with the remaining ingredients. Process for a couple of minutes until a smooth paste is achieved. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Top layer

1/2 large avocado, diced small
1 medium tomato, diced small
8 kalamata olives, diced
1 spring onion, chopped
2 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
squeeze of fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble, spread the refried beans evenly on the bottom of your serving dish followed by the cashew crema. Sprinkle the diced avocado, tomato, olives, spring onion and coriander on top. Add a squeeze of lime and some salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kung Pao Noodles

Although I had never tried kung pao/po before, when I saw this posted on Ashley's eat me, delicious blog it sounded exactly like the type of meal for me. A spicy, salty sauce with a bit of sweetness was definitely one to try!!! Soon afterwards I had the opportunity to sample Kung Po "Lamb" and "Chicken" at Enlightened Cuisine and they were fantastic.

One of the things I wanted to change about the recipe was the hoisin sauce as it's not something I am particularly fond of and didn't have any on hand. Instead, I used a combination of kecap manis, BBQ sauce and vegan oyster mushroom sauce. White wine is something I never have around either so I added a touch of white wine vinegar as my substitute.

When it comes to stir-fry's the man came be quite fussy. He only recently made it known to me that he doesn't like nuts in stir-fry's and has also become a bit weird when it comes to tofu. I still haven't worked out how he likes it best (apart from deep-fried which I rarely do!) but I know some of the ways he doesn't like it. He seemed to enjoy the tofu that we had at Nana Thai in Mission Beach which wasn't pre-fried so I thought I would give that a try. Instead of frying the tofu cubes, I placed them into the kung pao sauce to marinade whilst preparing the rest of the vegetables.

The good news is that all three of us really loved these noodles. There were so many wonderful flavours in the sauce to enjoy and the tofu tasted sensational as it had soaked up the kung pao sauce. I had a good feeling about this recipe as I had loved a curried chickpea soup that Ashley posted from her Rebar cookbook a while ago. This cookbook is going on my wishlist, not that I really need any more!

Kung Pao Noodles
(Adapted from eatme, delicious and Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook)

Kung Pao sauce

2 tablespoons minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon kecap manis
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon vegan oyster mushroom sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 star anise pod
2 teaspoons sriracha chilli sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cornflour

Other ingredients

270g dry udon noodles
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
3 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
350g firm tofu, drained, pressed with paper towels and cut into cubes

Place all of the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornflour into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of water in a teacup until it is a smooth paste, then pour this mixture into the simmering sauce. Simmer, covered for a further 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Remove the star anise from the sauce and discard. Add the tofu cubes to the sauce to marinade.

Meanwhile, bring water to the boil to cook the noodles in. Cook according to package directions (mine took 8 minutes). Drain the noodles in a colander and run cold water over them to stop them from cooking further.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, swirling it around so the sides of the wok are coated with the oil. Stir-fry the onion until golden, then add the vegetables and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add the sauce and the tofu and allow to cook until the vegetables start to soften. Mix through the noodles and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FNQ - Eating out

This feels like a rather pathetic post as over the course of the week that we were on holidays, we only dined out a few times and not once did I take a photo! The camera didn't make it with us to one of these dinners, once the light wasn't great so I didn't bother and another time I was too darn hungry to remember to take a shot before shovelling the food into my mouth. Nonetheless, I thought I would write a bit about the places we ate at as finding vegan food around Cairns and particularly Mission Beach was a bit challenging! To jazz the post up a little I have added in a few shots from our week away...

Someone getting ready for a swim, definitely not me!

After our return from Russell Heads, the man and I stayed a night in Cairns and strolled around town for a long time trying to settle on a place to eat. He felt like a Malaysian style vegetable curry but we were put off by limited veg options in a few Asian restaurants and staff standing by the door trying to intice you in just like they do on Lygon Street in Melbourne. We recalled having a decent vegetarian curry on our last trip to Cairns two years ago and wandered in the direction of a place called Mondo's at the Hilton. The Hilton has a couple of restaurants, Mondo's being the more casual of the two which also has the bonus of outdoor tables by the water.

The menu stated the items that contained dairy and we were disappointed to find that out of the 4 or 5 vegetarian items, all had the little "d" symbol next to them. We were getting tired and hungry by this stage and after questioning whether the Sri Lankan vegetable curry could be made without dairy we were given the thumbs up! This was just what we needed, a mild-moderately spiced bowl of curried vegetables served with rice, a tasty tomato chutney and a crispy pappadum.

Bananas growing in the garden of our rental house in the Daintree

Before we headed to the Daintree, I dragged the man down to Lillipad Cafe as I had seen it listed on the Happy Cow website as being vegetarian friendly. It was a very casual laid-back place and it took us a little while to realise that we needed to grab menus from the counter inside where you also ordered meals. There was only was breakfast item that didn't contain eggs so we both went with that after verifying with the staff that it would be vegan. The man was disappointed that they didn't provide any Nuttelex even though I pointed out that there was more than enough avocado to spread on the lovely light pieces of toast. The brekky also came with some cute mini hash browns, yummy pan grilled tofu, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms cooked with spring onions. We also enjoyed well-made coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice and waddled out of there full to the brim.

Cairns is a destination we have been to several times so we like to travel around the region and spend time in different locations as there is so much diversity. Rainforests, islands, mountains, beaches, beautiful croc-free freshwater swimming places and even goldfields and the outback are accessible. We still haven't seen it all!

Although the sky looks clear at Mission Beach is was quite windy and not very warm

Cyclone Yasi tore through Mission Beach and the surrounding area in February causing a huge amount of damage to local residences, businesses and surrounding national parks. As we hadn't been to this area before I felt it would be a good time to visit. Many businesses only started to re-open in July and really need all the tourism dollars they can get. The cyclone must have been too much for some people as there were plenty of businesses closed down and shops up for lease.

There are three main towns in the Mission Beach area and although we stayed closest to the largest one we didn't eat there as there wasn't much that looked vegan friendly. After driving through the Wongaling Beach shops and then a bit further down to the beach we spotted a Thai restaurant opposite the beach. The man and I don't usually frequent Thai restaurants as we find that Thai food in Australia contains way too much coconut milk, not enough spices and tastes nothing like what you eat over in Thailand. As we were rather limited for options this time, we decided to give it a try.

Tully's Golden Gumboot - it's height of 79m represents the highest rainfall in one year!

Many dishes had the option of being made with tofu or vegetables including soups, noodles, stir-frys and curries so there was plenty to choose from. The man surprised me by selecting pad grapow (stir-fry with chilli, garlic and thai basil) which is what I would usually choose. I had my eye on a jungle curry which is something you don't see very often. This appealed to me as the description indicated it was water based rather than coconut based which sounded like it would be nice and spicy. We ordered both of these meals with tofu as they already contained vegetables and ensured that there would not be any fish or oyster sauce added.

When our meals were delivered we were in heaven as they were absolutely delicious. I don't think we have eaten Thai food this authentic since going to Thailand. The jungle curry tasted so fresh and spicy and I was relieved that the man didn't want to split our meals down the middle. He was more than happy with his meal so we were both satisfied with simply tasting a few bites of each others. I was curious about the jungle curry ingredients so I questioned the owner as I wanted to know if he had used fresh peppercorns in the paste. Oh yes indeed, they were grown in Silkwood (20 kms down the road). This meal was the absolute highlight of our trip and now I am on the hunt to find some fresh peppercorns so I can attempt to recreate this sensational curry at home!      

Josephine falls near Innisvale. None of our photos do this beautiful place justice.

34 Esplanade, Cairns
(07) 4052 6780
Lunch and dinner only

Lillipad Cafe
72 Grafton St, Cairns
(07) 4051 9565
Breakfast and lunch only

Nana Thai
165 Reid St, Wongaling Beach
(07) 4068 9101
Only open for dinner, dine-in or take-away

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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Quinotto caught my eye in Viva Vegan for a few reasons. I liked the sound of the name (keen-otto) and the concept of cooking quinoa in the style of a risotto felt like it would work well. My son does not enjoy risotto at all and the reason he states for disliking it so intensely is that he hates arborio rice. I still can't get my head around that!

The recipe introduction states that quinotto is a common concept in South American countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, although the resulting meal is more like a pilaf than an actual risotto. The ingredients seemed a bit plain as it listed mushrooms as the only vegetable so I pinched a couple of the chorizo seitan sausages that I had prepared for our trip away and threw in some baby spinach leaves as well.  

I am pleased to say that my son was totally impressed with the quinotto although he did mention that it wasn't anything at all like risotto. I do agree with him as the taste and texture was totally different. The quinotto term suits the cooking process of slowly adding stock in batches and stirring frequently more than the actual dish. The man wasn't as enthused about this meal and preferred to sneak bites of a risoni based pasta salad I had been preparing for our plane trip the next day.

Pictured above is the Aji Amarillo chilli paste purchased from Casa Iberica which has a bit of a kick but is definitely not the hottest chilli paste going around. 

Quinotto (Adapted from Viva Vegan)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup white quinoa, rinsed well 
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar + 1/2 cup water (or use 1/2 cup white wine)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste (or use another form of chilli paste/powder to taste) 
3 cups warm vegetable stock
1/6 quantity chorizo seitan recipe, cut into rounds 
4 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
100g baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes, until golden. Add the rinsed quinoa and fry, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes until it turns slightly golden. Stir through the white wine vinegar plus water (or white wine) and stir well to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add the thyme, oregano and aji amarillo paste (or chilli) and simmer for a minute. 

Add about a cup of the vegetable stock and stir a little more frequently. When the stock has been absorbed, add a little more. Continue adding the stock bit by bit, stirring every so often until the quinoa is tender. This should take about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, spray a non-stick frying pan with olive oil spray and cook the chorizo seitan rounds until lightly browned on each side. Remove the chorizo from the frying pan, give it another spray with olive oil and fry the mushrooms until softened. 

Turn off the heat and stir through the cooked mushrooms, chorizo seitan and spinach. Cover the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes. Finally add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.    

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pumpkin and spinach dal

It feels like quite a while has passed between posts which has been for a good reason - a trip to Far North Queensland to thaw out my wintery bones! I'll write a bit about the holiday eats soon enough but first of all I wanted to post about something I discovered whilst clearing the fridge out before going away.

Half a chunk of pumpkin plus a yearning for some Indian led me to search for a pumpkin dal recipe. After reading through a couple of recipes, I settled upon making a version of one that I found on Vegan Culinary Crusade, a vegan blog I hadn't heard of before.

The pumpkin pieces were roasted in the oven the night before (whilst other baking was going on), then mashed into a puree. I decided to tweak a few of the spices to my liking and used the juice from half a large lemon rather than a lime. My initial thought was to serve this with some stuffed cabbage flatbreads I had seen on Allotment2Kitchen not long ago, however this was too ambitious with other holiday cooking preparations going on so I had a last minute change of mind and served the dal with our old faithful punjabi cabbage instead.

Over the years I have cooked countless different dals on so many occasions and the man sadly hasn't been very fond of them for a while. I was very pleased that he did enjoy this dal as did my son and I. The addition of a souring agent like lemon or lime juice in a dal brings out a different dimension of flavour that all three of us enjoyed a great deal. And anything with spinach is always popular too!  

Pumpkin and spinach dal (Adapted from Vegan Culinary Crusade)

1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
Juice of 1/2 lemon
100g baby spinach leaves

Rinse the red lentils in a strainer until the water runs clear then place them in a saucepan with the water, vegetable stock powder and turmeric. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to the lowest possible and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. 

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium flame. Add the mustard seeds and when then begin to pop, stir through the onion and fry for 5-10 minutes until the onions are translucent and begin to brown. Add the cumin, chilli powder, garam masala and salt, stir the spices through the onions evenly and cook for about 2 minutes. 

Mix the onions and spices through the lentils then stir in the pumpkin puree, lemon juice and spinach. Turn off the heat when the spinach has wilted and serve with rice.