Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tamales with refried beans, mushrooms and corn

Last Saturday was perfect weather to stay indoors as it was an extremely rainy old day in Melbourne. This wasn't to be the case as the man and I had several errands to run which included a visit to USA Foods in Moorabbin. The main reason for our visit to USA Foods was to purchase some more liquid smoke but I was also delighted to find some Maseca flour for making tamales. As soon as I had this wonderful flour in my hands, I knew we would be having tamales for dinner that night.

Tamales have been intriguing me since I purchased Viva Vegan. They are parcels of masa dough filled with savoury or sweet items which are wrapped in corn husks and steamed. As I had no idea where to buy corn husks, I decided to forgo this part and wrap my tamales in foil instead. The man loves his refried beans so to please him I made up a refried bean filling and added some mushrooms and corn rather than following one of the tamale recipes from Viva Vegan.

When it was time to make the masa dough, I let out a big sigh. I didn't have any vegetable shortening! The rain was still bucketing down and I couldn't bear the thought of going out in the weather again. Instead I spent of bit of time reading about masa dough recipes for tamales and discovered that any type of fat can really be used so I settled upon using some olive oil in it's place.  

After the filling and masa dough were prepared, I set up an assembly line of sheets of aluminium foil. The dough was placed onto each sheet and shaped by hand, then spoonfuls of the filling were placed down the middle of the dough. The trickiest part was the rolling. There's a lot of great tamale making advice and tips in Viva Vegan but it is centred around using corn husks so I just did what felt right and hoped for the best. Next time I would use slightly smaller sheets of foil as they were a bit cumbersome to roll.

The refried bean filling on it's own was rather spicy although the heat level dropped considerably when it was combined with the masa dough. Never mind, a few splashes of hot sauce took the spiciness back up to how we like it. I really enjoyed the soft but hearty texture of the tamales and the flavour of the corn in the masa dough was delicious. The tamales were served with a simple side salad drizzled with Creamy Ancho Chile dressing which is also from Viva Vegan. I'm looking forward to trying out some other tamale recipes now that there is a big bag of Maseca flour in my pantry.

Tamales with refried beans, mushrooms and corn
Makes 10 tamales

Refried beans with mushrooms and corn

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons finely chopped pickled jalapenos
100g mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ancho chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels

Heat the peanut oil in a large saucepan over medium. Fry the garlic for about 10 seconds, then add the onion and jalapeno and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the cumin, oregano, ancho chilli powder, salt and bay leaf. Place the kidney beans and water in the pot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat slightly.

Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, then remove the bay leaf. Break the beans up with a potato masher and then cook for another 5 minutes. Stir through the frozen corn kernels 2 or 3 minutes before the filling is ready. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before filling the tamales.

Masa Dough (Adapted from Viva Vegan)

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups Maseca flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm vegetable stock

Place the margarine and olive oil in a bowl and use a hand-held mixer to combine the ingredients together. Add the maseca flour, baking powder, garlic powder and salt and beat for a few minutes until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Pour in the vegetable stock and beat until the liquid has been absorbed.

The dough should have a consistency that is comparable to thick mashed potatoes. If it appears too wet, mix through a couple of tablespoons of extra flour. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water and stir thoroughly.

Tamale assembly

Tear off sheets of aluminium foil or baking paper and spray lightly with olive oil. Place about 1/4 cup of the masa dough on the centre of each sheet and use your hands or a spatula to mould the dough into a rectangular    shape of approximately 12 x 8 cm. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the filling down the centre of the masa dough leaving 1 cm at each end without any filling.

Prepare each tamale by pinching the sheets of foil/baking paper together along the outsides of the masa dough, then roll up the foil and secure the ends. The parcel should be fairly tight but needs to allow a bit of room for the masa dough to expand whilst steaming.

Place the tamale parcels into a steamer basket and allow to steam for 55 minutes. To check whether the tamales are ready, remove one from the steamer and carefully peel back the wrapper. If the dough appears to be sticky, continue steaming for another 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fasolia Ksera (Broad bean salad)

Broad beans are something that I don't cook with often as they take a while to prepare. Time never seems as much of an issue when home-grown produce is in the picture. When my mother in law presented me a big bag of broad beans from her garden, rather than adding them to a dish as a supplementary item, I looked for a recipe that would give them a starring role.

Broad beans, green peas and mint were common themes popping up all over the place, but the man and son aren't particularly fond of mint so I kept hunting further for something different. My searching came to a halt when I found a recipe for Fasolia Ksera, a salad of Greek origin. This caught my eye as it was a combination of broad beans, olives, lemon juice and parsley.  

After an initial podding, the starting weight of 600 grams of broad beans dwindled down to 180 grams. The final weight ended up as a measly 100 grams after being blanched and having a second podding. The amount wasn't really sufficient for three people as a side dish and I could have bulked it up with some frozen broad beans, but I wanted to relish the taste of this fresh home grown produce on it's own.

The slight tang of lemon and saltiness from the olives were a perfect match and complimented the beans without being overpowering. We really enjoyed this salad and I was regretful that there wasn't more to go around. Next time I'll definitely be making a double batch!  

Fasolia Ksera (Broad bean salad) - Adapted from this recipe
Serves 2 as a side dish

600g fresh broad beans or 180g frozen broad beans
1/4 small red onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
6 kalamata olives, cut in half
freshly chopped parsley, for garnish

If using fresh broad beans, remove the beans from the pods first.

Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the broad beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove and discard the skins by making an opening with your fingernail and squeezing the broad beans out.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a bowl, Add the broad beans, onion and olives and mix thoroughly. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tempeh Lasagne

Tempeh, you either love it or hate it! For me, it's the latter the majority of the time but I'm starting to learn ways that I can appreciate it. The first few times I tried tempeh at home, it was in chunks that had been marinated and then baked or fried. Even after following tips and steaming the tempeh prior to marinating, I still found that these chunks had an unpleasant taste that the marinade didn't disguise.

Cindy from Where's the Beef tentatively pointed me in the direction of her tempeh lasagne recipe recently as I haven't been totally satisfied with any of my previous vegan lasagne attempts to date. I was delighted to find that the tempeh in this recipe was cut into tiny mince-sized pieces and I was particularly interested in trying the cashew cream sauce.    

A few adjustments were made to bulk up the tempeh sauce portion as Cindy mentioned that the lasagne could have used more of this. Some eggplant was added to the tempeh sauce as there was some around that needed using up. I also made my own lasagne sheets using a mixture of semolina and wholemeal flour.

The lasagne turned out to be really delicious and full of flavour. My son is not that keen on tempeh either but he really liked this meal. The man adored it and everyone was keen to have a share in the leftovers. I found that a few bites here and there still had a hint of the tempeh taste I'm not fond of. This was totally my fault as I increased the amount of tempeh in the recipe but didn't change the amount of soy sauce and liquid smoke that the tempeh needs to soak up. That is the only thing I would change next time around and there will be a next time because this lasagne is now our favourite!

I would love to hear about more tasty tempeh recipes. Let me know if you have any favourite recipes that use little bits of tempeh.  

Tempeh Lasagne (Adapted from Where's the Beef)

Pasta dough (or skip this step and use pre-made sheets)

3/4 cup plain wholemeal flour
3/4 cup semolina flour
pinch of sea salt
1/3 - 1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil

Place the flours into a bowl with a pinch of salt, mix together thoroughly and make a well in the centre. Pour the water and olive oil into the well and work the flour into the water slowly until a slightly wet dough has formed. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Tempeh Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
300g tempeh, chopped into tiny pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce (will add an extra tablespoon next time)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (will add an extra 1/2 teaspoon next time)
250g eggplant, chopped into 2cm cubes
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pepper, to taste

Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the tempeh, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until the pieces are browned. Add the soy sauce and liquid smoke and fry until the sauces have totally been absorbed by the tempeh. Remove from the saucepan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan and cook the eggplant for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is soft and golden. Remove from the saucepan and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft. Add the tinned tomatoes, eggplant, dried basil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and simmer while you are making the cashew cream sauce. Stir the tempeh through the sauce just prior to assembling the lasagne.

Cashew Cream Sauce

1 cup cashews
1 litre oat milk
3 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper

Place the cashews in a blender with 1/2 cup of oat milk and process until it becomes a smooth paste.

Melt the dairy free margarine in a saucepan then stir the flour through. Cook, stirring for a few minutes until the mixture browns a little. Add the rest of the oat milk, slowly at first, whisking through the mixture to ensure that no lumps remain.

Bring the mix to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick. Add in the cashew cream/oat milk paste and nutritional yeast flakes then stir until combined. Simmer for another 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Lasagne Assembly

Use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll out thin sheets of pasta. Cut the pasta to measure the width of your baking tray.

Spread enough cashew cream sauce to cover the bottom of your baking dish. Add a layer of lasagne sheets, then spread a 1/3 of the tempeh sauce followed by enough cashew cream to cover the sauce. Repeat the layering another 2 times, finishing with a layer of cashew cream. Bake in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes until the top layer has browned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recipe testing

Since I haven't been doing much cooking apart from recipe testing for Terry Hope Romero's new cookbook, I decided to gather some photos together and show you what I have been up to. The following is by no means all of the recipes I have tested but should give you an idea of how diverse the recipes are.

This French caramelised apple tart was a perfect way to finish off an evening meal with family last weekend.

Roasted gnocchi with a tomato caper sauce and roasted broccoli with lemon and sage. This was a really nice meal but my boys prefer a soft home-made gnocchi to the chewy gnocchi in this dish.

This kimchi tofu eggplant stew was different to anything I have eaten before and features home made kimchi.

The man told me that the curry laksa was restaurant quality. It was so good that I convinced him to come home for lunch to enjoy the leftovers. This has been one of my favourites so far too. I have also tested a Vietnamese pho which was really nice.

Chinese claypot seitan and mushrooms didn't really push my buttons although several other testers have enjoyed this and it was pretty easy to make.

Gyros roasted seitan, lemon garlic roasted potatoes and greek salad with cashew feta. I was quite excited to try a gyros seitan recipe during MoFo so when I saw a gyros seitan listed in the recipe index, I had to try it to compare. Terry's gyros is definitely superior and the greek salad is also fantastic.

Hope you enjoy these pics, I'll be back soon with a recipe post!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cauliflower alfredo with tofu bacon

Last week I took a few nights off recipe testing for various reasons. The man and son had been overwhelmed with so many new dishes, leftovers were getting out of control and my vegetable crisper needed a darn good clean out. Half a head of cauliflower was begging to be used which reminded me of Johanna's recent post about Cauliflower Alfredo. It sounded like a perfect way to use up the cauliflower and pasta is always a good way to keep my boys happy.

My adaptation was a bit different as I left out the white beans, kale and sun-dried tomatoes and added in some tofu bacon, broccoli and baby spinach leaves as they also needed to be used up. I included a larger quantity of smoked paprika which is something I have loved when playing around with the Alfredo recipe from Vegan Yum Yum. It turned out to be a fantastic meal that pleased everyone immensely so this pasta sauce will definitely be repeated in the future.

Cauliflower Alfredo (Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe and Cupcakes and Kale)

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g baby spinach leaves
10 strips tofu bacon, chopped
250g pasta of your choice
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan filled with water, bring to the boil then simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until very soft. In the meantime, steam the broccoli florets until just tender and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the cauliflower in a colander. Put the cauliflower, soy milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and smoked paprika in a blender and process until it becomes a smooth mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the spring onions and garlic and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the blender mixture then add the broccoli, baby spinach, tofu bacon and pasta. Stir everything together thoroughly and heat through until the spinach has just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegan MoFo - Roundup

Vegan MoFo has been such a busy month but not without reward! It has been fantastic to get to know some other bloggers and the abundance of gorgeous creative food posted throughout the month has truly been mind boggling. I was honoured to receive Liebster awards from Mandee from Cupcake Kitteh and ZuckerBaby from Tales of a Vegan Food Fetishist.

I'm glad that I posted some links halfway through the month as the volume in my bookmarks is pretty huge. Here are a few more recipes that I am looking forward to making one day:

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on my posts throughout the month, I really do appreciate it. I'm looking forward to a quieter month of blogging in November but definitely won't disappear completely.