Wednesday, September 28, 2011

100th post - My Veg*n story

I have been a bit slack on the blogging front in the latter part of this month which is partly due to Vegan MoFo preparations. Before we enter into October being the Vegan Month of Food I felt the need to reach a milestone – 100 posts! I planned this post some time ago as I thought it would be a good time to share my story of how and why I became vegetarian and my progression to veganism.  I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who has been reading and commenting on my posts as it means a lot and gives me motivation to keep blogging.

As a child I adored animals, my favourite toy was an enormous plush dog aptly named “Doggie” who was just one of many cherished “pets” in my soft toy animal collection. Dolls were never of interest to me and I don’t recall owning one. I grew up in a house where there was always a pet (if not several) around and I was always trying to add to our brood by bringing strays home. I adored the country and watching animals peacefully grazing on our way to visit my Nanna in Gippsland was the highlight of the journey there.

Meat was on the table every night of the week, as a child I loved eating it and never really made the connection between what was on my plate to the furry friends I cherished so much. In a home economics class at secondary school we made veal schnitzels and our teacher always encouraged us to take the recipes home and cook them for our families. Veal was something that had never been served at home and I remember being totally repulsed at finding out that it was flesh of a baby cow when I questioned my mother about it. I cooked the schnitzels that night and somehow managed to eat, although there was no enjoyment in the meal whatsoever. I only ate veal on a couple of other occasions after this, simply to be polite when eating at someone else’s house. Calves have always had a special place in my heart and I could never deal with the thought of eating such a gorgeous innocent creature.

I flirted with half-arsed vegetarianism when studying at Uni for a brief period however this was limited to not eating red meat. This was brought to an end during my pregnancy when I caved into intense cravings. I fell back into the habit of eating meat on a daily basis for many more years.

The middle of 2008 was the last time I ate meat. Surprisingly, my decision to stop eating meat wasn't really my idea but was brought on by several discussions and a bit of gentle prompting from my husband. This was mainly due to his concerns about factory farming which we had been blissfully unaware of up until then. I resisted for a while as my primary concern was how on earth I was going to cook different interesting tasty meals every night of the week. So we began by having a meatless dinner once or twice a week for a short time and building up a small repertoire of meals that we all enjoyed I agreed to give vegetarianism a try. We never looked back...

In fact, I totally embraced vegetarian food, became enthralled with trying out new recipes and the interest I always had in cooking was taken to a whole new level. I discovered veg*n blogs and was amazed and inspired with the creativity that these amazing people applied to their cooking.  I became even more interested in factory farming issues and animal rights. I stopped purchasing leather, wool, etc. and changed household products to cruelty-free brands.

After reading “Eating Animals” by Johnathon Safran Foer I wanted to go vegan straight away. I had loved not eating meat up until then as my conscience felt clean however this was no longer the case when I discovered more shocking truths about egg and dairy production. I wanted to stop consuming these nasties straight away and not contribute to the life-long suffering of these poor animals. It did not happen this way as I decided that more research into a balanced vegan diet was required. I had read stories of people that were unable to sustain veganism due to various reasons and wanted to ensure that I was covering all bases when it came to nutritional requirements.

This transitional period lasted for a while, much longer than I would have liked as we moved out of our house for renovations and in with my accommodating in-laws. I didn’t feel that it was going to be feasible to commit to a vegan diet until I was back at home and in my own kitchen. It was difficult enough to impose our vegetarian ways on our gracious hosts by needing to prepare our own meals every night as well as storing the food we required. Over the months, I kept decreasing the amount of dairy in my diet and wasn’t interested in eating eggs at all. Vegan meals were on the menu the majority of the time and food containing dairy wasn’t enjoyable for me anymore.

The renovations became complicated and drawn out and as well as being frustrated with them I just couldn’t wait any longer to go vegan. Milk in my daily coffee was one of the last things to be substituted which was something I was certain was going to be very hard to adapt to. After I bit the bullet and tried a few different varieties of soy milk, my taste buds adapted in a couple of days. There was to be no more waiting now, renovations or no renovations I was going vegan!

The man was the only person that initially knew and was very supportive of my decision. I never expected that he would follow my path as he has always been a bit of a sweet tooth and a total sucker for ice-cream and chocolate. When we moved back home, he secretly went for a week without eggs or dairy, proudly announced that he was joining me and has never looked back either.

It has been almost a year which has been a very happy and delicious time. Whenever I sit down to eat I don’t have to think about contributing towards the suffering of farmed animals which makes every meal a positive experience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tofu quiches and apricot delights for potluck plus Singapore noodles

Spring was well and truly in the air last weekend making it perfect weather to celebrate Planet VegMel's 2nd anniversary with a potluck in the Edinburgh Gardens. It was a bit daunting to turn up to an unfamiliar park that was crawling with numerous groups of people enjoying the sun whilst trying to locate a bunch of people I hadn't met before. After a quick stroll around I thankfully recognised a couple of blogging faces and made my way over to the friendly welcoming group.

My stomach was still rather full from a late breakfast so I didn't sample as many of the wonderful selection of vegan delights as I would have liked, and ended up snacking on more sweet things than savoury which is quite out of character for me. I enjoyed K's refreshing iced tea and Fat Fueled Vegan's deliciously creamy mango lassi for drinks and tucked into some of Michael's potato-chickpea enchiladas from Viva Vegan. The enchiladas were not new to me as I have made them a few times before, but I was intrigued to try them to compare.

When it was time for the sweets, Johanna's cake pops were extremely popular and rightfully so. Steph's chocolate caramel slice was delicious as were Emily's chocolate truffles. I took home some of Cindy's peanut butter cookies with ganache filling amongst other goodies and tried one later that night. My relationship with peanuts is rather quirky (peanuts = yum, anything containing peanut butter = yuck) so I didn't expect to enjoy these cookies. The peanut flavour paired with chocolate wasn't too overpowering so I was pleasantly surprised to find the cookie enjoyable as did my son who devoured the remaining two.

I made some tofu quiches originally from Fat Free Vegan and previously blogged by Johanna GGG and Vicki Vegan which seemed to be popular. My only gripe was they were nice and fluffy when they were being baked and then shrunk a little after they were cooled. Unfortunately K was unable to try them as I had included miso which can contain gluten. I also made some apricot delights from Johanna's blog which were also blogged about at In the Mood for Noodles; they are a nice and healthy sweet although they did become rather soft after spending some time out of the fridge.

It was a fantastic experience to meet and share food with other veg*n bloggers I have been following for a few years although it was also a little overwhelming for a shy person like me.

A few nights before the potluck, I finally made Toby's Singapore noodles which were fantastically easy to prepare for such a tasty dinner so I decided to add this into the post for another 'that recipe seems very familiar...' submission. The only changes I made were to add some different veggies and I also crumbled the tofu which is something I loved in Steph's awesome Char Kueh Teow recipe and have since used in other dishes. Oh yes, and like others who have also tried this recipe we preferred it with additional soy sauce too! Singapore noodles will definitely be part of our mid-week noodle rotation meals from now on.

Tofu quiches
(Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe and Vicki Vegan, originally posted at Fat Free Vegan)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g button mushrooms, finely chopped
100g baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 x 300g silken tofu, drained
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon white miso
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons tamari
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1/4 cup soy milk
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir through the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the spinach and cook, stirring until the leaves have just wilted.

Place the tofu, tahini, nutritional yeast flakes, miso, smoked paprika and tamari in a food processor bowl and pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides if necessary.

In a small bowl, mix the chickpea flour with the soy milk thoroughly to obtain a smooth paste with no lumps. Mix together the ingredients from the frying pan, food processor and chickpea flour/soy milk paste. Stir through the sun-dried tomatoes and chives.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture into a muffin tray lined with papers and bake at 190C for about 30 minutes.

Apricot Delight 
(Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe, originally from Australian Women's Weekly)

250g dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons agave nectar
extra coconut, for coating

Soak half of the apricots in a saucepan with the boiling water for about an hour. Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Puree the apricots in a food processor. Add the remaining apricots, coconut and agave and process until well combined. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times to ensure that all of the ingredients are blended in.

Spread the mixture into a small tin lined with baking paper, cover the top with baking paper and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the tin, cut into squares and roll the squares in extra coconut. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Singapore Noodles (Adapted from In the Mood for Noodles)

250g rice vermicelli noodles
250g firm tofu, crumbled
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 small red capsicum, thinly sliced
2 large portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
splash of soy sauce
slash of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/4 cup vegetable stock
extra soy sauce and white pepper to taste

Soak the noodles in hot water for about 10 minutes until the noodles are tender. Drain and set aside.

Place the crumbled tofu, carrot, capsicum, mushrooms, broccoli in a bowl and marinate with soy sauce, sesame oil and chilli flakes.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan over a medium high heat, then set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok over the highest heat and stir-fry the onion until soft. Stir through the curry powder then add the marinated tofu and vegetables and stir-fry until the vegetables are softening. Add the noodles and stock and stir-fry until the stock has been absorbed. Season with extra soy sauce and white pepper and serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegan MoFo 2011

Vegan MoFo is being held in October this year.

I have loved discovering many new blogs through Vegan MoFo in the past and vowed when I started my own blog that I would definitely participate in this event. The sign-up form is here and the submission deadline is the 28th September for those who are interested in participating.

There are only 2 weeks to go so it's time to start planning!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baked falafels with home-made pita

Falafels are something that have been on my agenda to make especially after purchasing my copy of Appetite for Reduction as I was excited that it contained a spicy, baked version. The only thing that held me back from trying it until now has been the man's lunches. Most days I send him off to work with leftovers from dinner or some soup, apart from once or twice a week when he buys something.

For the past few months, the man has been right back on the falafel bandwagon as a purchased lunch option. His relationship with falafels is quite difficult to predict so rather than inundate him with multiple occurrences in the same week, I have been patiently waiting and gently inquiring about what he has been eating when he buys his lunch. A few years ago when attending a work Christmas function at a Middle Eastern restaurant, the man astounded our table by refusing to eat falafels. Some people couldn't get their heads around a vegetarian not wanting to eat a vegetarian staple! He was just off them at the time...

Recently I was questioned as to why I had never made falafels before so I took it as my opportunity to do so! On the night, I prepared a batch of pita bread dough and whilst waiting for that to rise, made the falafels, hummus and a garlic sauce. The falafel mixture was simple to make with the aid of a food processor and although the little balls were a bit sticky to handle, they bound together well with some extra chickpea flour added.

Appetite for Reduction also contains a recipe titled "Hummus and friends". It starts with a base recipe for hummus which is fairly standard apart from the exclusion of tahini. The recipe then continues on with six different hummus variations that include a couple of extra ingredients to make them unique. I liked the sound of the Shabby Sheik Hummus as it contained smoked paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper and I thought this would pair well with the falafels.

I went with my instinct for the garlic sauce and used silken tofu, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic and adjusted quantities until I was satisfied. Two cloves of garlic were blended in with the other ingredients initially but I could still detect an underlying taste of tofu. I added an extra couple of cloves of garlic and the sauce was fantastic, perhaps a little too garlicky for some people's tastes although perfectly suitable for my audience.

After the falafels were baked and the pita breads rolled out and cooked in the frying pan, the only thing left to do was to assemble these babies! Each pita began with a generous spread of hummus, followed by some shredded cos lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced red onion, falafels and topped off with the garlic sauce. It's been a while since I last had falafels and I must say that these ones really hit the spot! My son has never been a falafel lover so I almost fell off my chair when he scoffed his down without complaint and proceeded to go back for seconds. The man also went back for more which meant there were no leftovers, so next time I will definitely be making a double batch!

Baked Falafels (Adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons Sriracha chilli sauce
3-4 tablespoons chickpea (besan) flour
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 200C.

Place the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil and chilli sauce in a food processor and pulse until a smooth mixture results. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times to ensure that everything is processed.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir through the chickpea flour, cumin, coriander, paprika, baking powder, salt and pepper. If the mixture is not firm enough to roll into balls, add a bit more chickpea flour.

Line an oven tray with baking paper and spray with olive oil spray. Make walnut sized balls out of the mixture and then flatten them slightly into patties. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, the underside should be browned. Spray the tops of the falafels, flip them over and them bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes.     

Shabby Sheik Hummus (Adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor bowl and pulse until the mixture becomes smooth and no lumps remain. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until required.

Garlic sauce 

300g package silken tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
2-4 cloves crushed garlic (start with 2 cloves, add additional garlic to taste)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until required.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Delicious tofu indeed!

Tofu is something I could happily eat every day of the week. I love it's ability to soak up flavours and the different textures that can be achieved by applying various cooking methods. Having said that, I try to limit my weekly tofu consumption as there are enough soy products in my diet and it's better to eat a variety of protein sources. If I had to choose between a meal containing lentils, beans, tofu or nuts, tofu would be the winner most of the time.

Perhaps my self-imposed tofu limit is the reason that Matthew's delicious tofu posted by In the Mood for Noodles well over a year ago didn't make it out of my bookmarks until now. I always have an abundance of tofu recipes stored up and never enough time to cook them all! The flavours in the recipe sounded great, a combination of spicy, salty, sweet and sour. It had also been given the thumbs up by Where's the Beef earlier this year.

After planning out my meals for the week and deciding to try Matthew's delicious tofu, I became somewhat conflicted after reading K's post about Toby's Singapore Noodles. The noodles also sounded fantastic and I haven't eaten Singapore Noodles for quite some time. Of course, I could have made both recipes but the rest of my week's cooking was organised so I stuck to my original plan, telling myself that it was only fair to give this neglected recipe a shot first.

I wanted to include some vegetables with the meal without making a separate side dish so I decided to steam some vegetables and add them to the tofu at the end. As the sauce would have been devoured by the tofu by this stage, I doubled the sauce quantity and reserved half to mix into the pan with the vegetables. The recipe also listed chopped nuts which the man doesn't like as toppings so I left them out to appease him.

The recipe's title was certainly an honest one as the tofu truly was delicious! There were no complaints from my crew so it was unanimous win. It was also a simple meal to prepare which was perfect for a weeknight dinner. This recipe is one that I will keep in mind for nights when you need a quick meal on the table.

This post is my second submission for the 'that recipe seems very familiar...' blog event which is part of the 2nd birthday celebrations for Planet VeGMeL.

Matthew's delicious tofu with steamed vegies
(Adapted from In the Mood for Noodles and originally from The Garden of Vegan)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
350g firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into pieces
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1 small red capscium, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tamari
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha chilli sauce (or less if you don't like too much spice)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tablespoon minced ginger

Heat the peanut oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the tofu until browned on both sides.

While the tofu is frying, steam the broccoli, capsicum, carrot and mushrooms until just tender. Whisk the maple syrup, tamari, lemon juice and chilli sauce together and set aside.

When the tofu has cooked on both sides, reduce the heat, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for a minute. Pour half of the sauce into the pan, stir well, then cover and cook until the juices have almost evaporated. Add the steamed vegetables to the pan with the rest of the sauce, mix thoroughly and cook until heated through. Serve the tofu and vegetables on a bed of rice with sauce from the pan drizzled on top.     

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Simple strudel

The other night I had an urge to cook something for dessert which is quite unusual as I don't feel compelled to bake sweet things very often. After looking at a few cookbooks, I decided to make an apple strudel from Vegan Yum Yum.

There was one minor flaw with this plan, only one apple was left in the house which was not going to be enough for the strudel so I pulled some frozen blueberries out of the freezer and made a mix of both. My son was disappointed about the inclusion of blueberries as his preference for fresh fruit has always been limited to apples. The only way he will eat other fruits is when they are included in something sweet like a dessert or cake.

This was such an easy dessert to throw together and only took about 10-15 minutes of preparation time (gotta love those puff pastry sheets). I was highly impressed with how it turned out for such minimal effort. The pastry was nice and flaky and the filling had a perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavours. A dollop of cashew cream would have been a lovely accompaniment which I will keep in mind for next time!

Apple and blueberry strudel (Adapted from Vegan Yum Yum)

3 tablespoons raw sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large apple, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 Borg's puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted
Extra sugar and cinnamon, for topping

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Drizzle the lemon juice over the apple slices and blueberries and then coat the fruit with the dry mixture.

Spread the fruit mixture in a line down the centre of your pastry sheet. Fold over the dough and tuck in the ends. Place the strudel on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Brush the strudel generously with the melted margarine and top with sugar and cinnamon. Make several slashes in the strudel with a knife.

Cook for about 30 minutes or until golden and crispy. Allow to cool a little before serving, or eat straight away and try not to burn your tongue!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chilli bean crepes

Some leftover chilli beans were found hiding in the fridge just before Father's Day which gave me an idea for Sunday brunch. I would reheat the chilli beans, make some guacamole, grate some cheezly and serve all of this in crepes!

We were smitten with savoury crepes a couple of years ago, first made for us by my sister in Cairns and then at a market stall she recommended when we headed over to Darwin. My sister's crepes were filled with goat's cheese and tomato which was a variation of her feta and tomato market stall favourite. Another type of crepe we sampled from the market contained chilli beans, cheese and sour cream which was another delicious combination. After we arrived home, both varieties were on our weekend brunch menu for a while before other things took over and they were forgotten.

I hadn't really thought about making crepes after going vegan, mainly because our beloved fillings had been so heavy in dairy products. The time had come for our weekend brunches to have a shake-up, tofu scrambles and baked beans had been standard fare for a while and were becoming a little mundane. After looking through several cookbooks, I decided to try the savoury crepe recipe from Veganomicon.  

The mixture is simple to prepare although like many other crepe recipes, the batter needs to sit for a least an hour before it's ready for making crepes. Our growling stomachs couldn't quite wait for an hour to pass (we made it to about 45 minutes) but this had no detrimental effect as the crepes still turned out perfectly. It was a different way to use up left over chilli beans and we also managed to consume one or two crepes topped with lemon juice and sugar as well!

Savoury Wheat Crepes (Adapted from Veganomicon)

3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1/4 cup water

Place the flours and salt in a bowl and combine well. Pour in the soy milk and water and whisk until a smooth mixture results and no lumps remain. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Prior to making crepes, give the mixture a quick stir.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high and lightly brush with melted dairy-free margarine. Pour about 1/3 cup of the mixture into the frying pan, swirling the pan to ensure that the batter spreads out into a thin layer. When the mixture has set, flip the crepe over and cook for another minute. Remove the cooked crepe and repeat the process until the mixture has been used up.    

Chilli beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red capsicum, chopped
2 teaspoons chilli seasoning mix (based on this recipe which I'm constantly tweaking)
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, rinsed and drained
salt, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft. Stir through the garlic, red capsicum and chilli seasoning mix and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and kidney beans and simmer for about 10 minutes until the capsicum is tender. Season with salt and serve.

Chilli bean crepes

For each crepe, add spoonfuls of the chilli beans onto one half of the crepe. Sprinkle with grated cheezly and add dollops of guacamole and/or vegan sour cream. Fold over and serve!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ethiopian dinner party

After the success of the Mexican fiesta a few weeks ago, I invited my Dad and family from his second marriage over for a meal. This time my plan was to cook some Ethiopian food as I thought it would be something they would appreciate not having tried it previously.

A few weeks prior, I was delighted to find that my health food store had just begun stocking teff flour. I had been searching high and low for this authentic ingredient for some time and to have it magically appear after I had given up all hope was a lovely surprise. My previous injera attempt which I never got around to posting about was using red sorghum flour which is supposed to be the best alternative to teff flour. This injera recipe from The Sour Dough is the updated recipe I have been using which has worked well with both red sorghum and teff flours.

For the stews (which are really more like curries), I cooked up a double batch of our favourite powdered chickpea stew and a mixed vegetable stew with pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower, both from World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown. I also made a couple of other stews trialled once before, a split pea stew adapted from Vegan Dad and a silverbeet stew inspired by Appetite for Reduction.

Vegan Dad's split pea stew is a recipe that is written using a pressure cooker which I don't own. He also listed plain margarine as an ingredient so I subbed in some nitter kibbeh (spiced clarified margarine) and omitted some of his spices that are also a component of nitter kibbeh. I cooked in the style of other Ethiopian stews, by initially dry-frying the onions, then adding nitter kibbeh, spices, garlic and ginger and also increased the cooking time considerably to ensure the split peas were soft enough.

It was interesting that out of the 4 stews, everyone seemed to have their own preference for the one they liked the most. Dad was incredibly impressed with the split pea stew which I was calling the soup stew. I adore split peas and only used to include them in soups although this has changed recently. When I use split peas in anything other than soup, the man usually comments that it tastes like soup which doesn't bother me at all being the soup lover I am.

I kept my dessert very simple and made lemon bars from The Joy of Vegan Baking which were a big hit. I don't really have a sweet tooth but lemon bars are definitely my type of indulgence. Although it was the second time I had made them, I haven't taken a photo either time to prove it! Speaking of photos, I didn't capture any on the night so the shot at the top is some lunch leftovers of injera with powdered chickpeas and split pea stews.

Overall it was a fantastic dinner which was only dampened by the loss of my engagement ring. Thankfully, it did turn up the next day!

Teff Injera (Adapted from The Sour Dough)

Day 1 - Set-up the starter

1/2 cup teff flour (or red sorghum flour)
1/8 teaspoon yeast
3/4 cup room temperature water

Mix the teff flour, yeast and water in a container until well combined and no lumps remain. Cover loosely with a lid and store in a warm place.

Day 3 - Feed the starter

1/3 cup teff flour (or red sorghum flour)
1/2 cup water

Open the container (be aware that the smell can be pretty intense) and observe little bubbles rising to the surface. Stir through the teff flour and water until well combined. Cover loosely with a lid.

Day 5 - Final feed of starter

1/3 cup teff flour (or red sorghum flour)
1/2 cup water

If you are planning to make injera for dinner, feed the starter in the morning. Stir through the teff flour and water until well combined.Leave covered for at least 4 hours.

Day 5 - Making Injera

2 cups self-raising flour (wholemeal SR flour works too)
enough room temperature water to make a thin mixture

After the final feeding has taken place 4 hours ago, add the self-raising flour and enough water to make a thin mixture to the starter and stir until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. It should resemble a thin pancake mixture. Cover and leave for 4 hours.

When you are ready to make the injera, give the mixture a final stir.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and spray lightly with olive oil. Add about 1/4 cup of mixture at a time, swirling the pan with your other hand to spread the mixture as much as possible. When the mixture on top has set, slide a spatula under the injera and transfer to a plate. Repeat this process until the mixture is used up.

The injera is ready when the centre looks like the edges.

  • Injera is cooked on one side only so don't flip it over like a pancake!
  • If you find the injera is sticking to the pan, spray the pan lightly with olive oil occasionally.
  • The injera is fairly rigid after it is cooked but becomes more spongy and pliable as it cools. When it has cooled a little you should be able to roll them up. 
  • Don't stack the flat cooked injera's on top on each other or they will stick together. You can use baking paper to separate them the cooked injera. I prefer to use two plates, the first to cool down the injera slightly and the second to stack the rolled injera's on.

Ethiopian Split Pea Stew (Adapted from Vegan Dad)

2 onions, diced
3 tablespoons nitter kibbeh
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 cm piece ginger, chopped finely
1 tablespoon berbere (or to taste)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed well
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, diced
100g mushrooms, diced
100g baby spinach leaves

Dry fry the onions in a large pot over low-medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Melt the nitteh kibbeh into the onions, then stir through the garlic, ginger, berbere and paprika and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the split peas, water and salt. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for another 30 minutes then stir through the spinach leaves until have just wilted. Season with additional salt, if required.