Friday, December 23, 2011

Cauliflower risotto

Christmas can be a logistical nightmare for trying to get families together. For many years, we would have a lunch with one family followed by a dinner with the other family on Christmas Day which was quite exhausting. In more recent times, our first family gathering kicks off on Christmas Eve with my side of the family. Christmas Day is relatively quiet consisting of a brunch with the man's family followed by a proper lunch on Boxing Day. It feels more relaxing to have the festivities spread out over a few days and it also gives me plenty of time for cooking!

Over the last few years I have made a couple of nut roasts from Johanna's Green Gourmet Giraffe blog, a tofurkey discovered on Where's The Beef and Carla from easy as vegan pie's cauliflower and caramelised onion tart amongst other things. This year I wanted to mix it up a little. When my sister announced that she was planning a BBQ on Christmas Eve, I had to put my thinking cap on because veggie burgers or sausages didn't feel special enough for the occasion. I threw a few ideas at the man and the one that we both happily agreed on was arancini.

Arancini or risotto balls are best made with day old risotto so I decided to make a double batch of risotto, serve some for dinner and use the remainder for the arancini. A smooth textured risotto suits arancini best as it makes rolling the balls much easier. A cauliflower risotto recipe had been sitting in my drafts for several months as I didn't record the recipe properly when I initially threw it together and also felt that my first effort needed a bit of tweaking. I knew that the texture would be perfect for arancini so it was time to give it another try.

This risotto starts off by cooking the cauliflower in vegetable stock and then blending it with a bit of stock. The thick cauliflower puree is reserved and added to the plain risotto when it has finishing cooking which makes it a very creamy dish. We like to eat this risotto garnished with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I have also sampled it with toasted slivered almonds and fresh parsley which gives it a lighter taste and a bit of crunch.

I was out of of white wine and fresh herbs which I would usually include in a risotto. I had prepared a very simple basil pesto so this was used in place of herbs. My mum has shocking allergies to every variety of nut so I had made this batch of pesto only with basil, olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt. The man adored this risotto and I had cunningly made it on a night when our son wasn't home for dinner. I've mentioned before that he doesn't care for risotto and olives are another pet hate of his. Sun-dried tomatoes are tolerable for him but they are not something that he is mad about. The man requested this meal to become a regular so I suggested that it could be a regular when it's tea for two.

I would like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you all enjoy the festive season and devour some delicious food with great company.

Cauliflower risotto

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon basil pesto
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped sun dried tomatoes and olives, for garnish

Cook the cauliflower in a saucepan with the vegetable stock until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander and reserve the stock. Place the cauliflower florets in a blender with 1//2  - 1 cup of the vegetable stock and process until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Pour the rest of the stock back into the saucepan and simmer over a low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large wide pot and fry the onions for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute then stir through the rice ensuring that the grains are coated evenly with the oil, onions and garlic. Add 1 cup of stock and stir until the stock has been absorbed. Turn the heat to low and continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice is almost tender.

Stir through the cauliflower puree, nutritional yeast and basil pesto and cook for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs if desired.   

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smoky Alfred

Hurry Up Alfredo has been a unanimous household favourite over the last couple of years. The recipe comes from Vegan Yum Yum which was one of my first vegan cookbook purchases and the alfredo was the first recipe I tried. I have probably made this more than any other vegan cookbook recipe as it's so quick and easy to prepare and such a crowd-pleaser at home. The first time I made the recipe as stated in the cookbook and then the tinkering began...

Smoked paprika was the first alteration and after enjoying it so much in this sauce I could never go back to making it without. Ingredients were omitted from the sauce every now and then which didn't seem to have a significant impact on the meal. After reading Cindy from Where's the Beef and Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe's posts about Hurry Up Alfredo and seeing their photos, I realised that my version had become quite different to the original recipe as well as Cindy and Johanna's adaptations. It's probably not so much of an Alfredo these days but we do still fondly refer to this meal as "Alfred".

I always like to add some greens to it which is usually broccoli, spinach or in this case broad beans. Left-over tofu bacon is a welcome addition too. This meal always satisfies our creamy pasta cravings and the smoky flavour is what makes this meal such a hit.

On an unrelated note, the plums on our tree are ripening which has been prompting these stunning rainbow lorikeets to visit on a daily basis. My week has been brightened up by these gorgeous birds chatting away and feasting on the plums a couple of metres away from my work desk.

Smoky Alfred (Adapted from the Hurry Up Alfredo recipe in Vegan Yum Yum)

300g frozen broad beans
1/3 cup cashews
1 1/3 cup soy milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
250g pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1/3 quantity tofu bacon, chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Place the broad beans into a pot of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Squeeze the beans out of their pods and discard the pods. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain in a colander.

Process the cashews in a blender until it becomes a powder. Add the soy milk, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, tahini, lemon juice, dijon mustard and smoked paprika and then blend until everything is combined.

Heat the olive oil in the pot you cooked the pasta in and fry the garlic for about 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce from the blender and then add the cooked pasta, broad beans, tofu bacon and basil. Stir for a couple of minutes until heated through. Serve immediately with freshly cracked black pepper.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Breakfast burritos

Breakfast burritos have always sounded like a fantastic idea to me although I must admit to never eating one before. Last weekend I decided it was time to give them a try with a tofu scramble filling. Smoked tofu seasoned with cumin, oregano, chipotle chilli powder and lime juice felt like a good combination of ingredients, along with some mushrooms and the man's favourite vegetable - broccoli. The broccoli seemed a little out of place but it was purely there to keep a promise.

After making the scramble, it was just a matter of filling the tortillas, folding them up and then grilling for a minute or two on each side. I had some sofrito, cashew cream and guacamole leftover from dinner which were perfect condiments for the burritos. This was a slightly different kind of brunch to ones I usually make on weekends but it is a meal I am very likely to make again as it was fairly quick to prepare and we loved it!

Mexican inspired tofu scramble burritos

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup water
1 large shallot or 1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100g button mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder
300g smoked tofu, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-4 teaspoons lime juice (I used 4 which I might reduce to 3 next time)
salt and pepper, to taste
4 flour tortillas

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the broccoli and cook, stirring for a few minutes until browned. Pour in 1/4 cup water, cover and steam for another minute. Transfer the broccoli to a plate.

Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the shallots/onions and garlic on medium for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and juicy. Add the cumin, oregano, chipotle chilli powder, smoked tofu, tomato paste and 1/4 cup water and stir well to combine. Cook for a few minutes until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and add the lime juice to your desired taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Place spoonfuls of the filling in the centre of the tortillas and then wrap them up to enclose the filling. Heat a non-stick grill pan or frying pan over medium heat and cook the burritos for a minute or two on each side. The burritos should be cooked seam side down first and carefully flipped over when slightly browned. Serve with cashew cream, guacamole and hot sauce.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe testing - Part 2

My posts have been few and far between recently as I am still knee deep in recipe testing for Terry Hope Romero's new cookbook. The experience has been fantastic and as the focus of the book is based on cuisines from around the world, it suits me perfectly. I love making food from different countries!

Thai jungle curries are completely different to the standard red and green curries that are on the menu at every Thai restaurant. I was so excited to try this recipe as I have been wanting to try a jungle curry for a while. This hit the spot for me but some people would find it too spicy.

It was a bit foolish to attempt these Jamaican curry seitan and potato patties on a weeknight but they were well worth the effort. I haven't really eaten Caribbean food before but these patties made me want to try more.

I have loved all of the Mediterranean recipes I have tested and this pastichio was no exception. A little bit goes a long way as it's a really filling meal.

I haven't photographed any of the soups I have tested apart from this asparagus, potato and leek soup. It wasn't my favourite of the soup recipes but other testers have raved about it.

The Belgian beer bathed seitan stew with oven frites won the hearts of the man and son. It was so rich and hearty and really tasty.

Cauliflower stuffed parathas with okra masala was a delicious Indian meal. I love making flatbreads and although the stuffed ones can be a bit challenging to put together, they really are worth it. This was my first foray into cooking with okra and we enjoyed this curry a lot.

This tomato, olive and garlic socca was an absolute highlight and will be on our weekend brunch rotation from now on. Just thinking about it makes me hungry!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Spicy Broccoli Risoni

Risoni is also known as orzo in other parts of the world. It's a small type of pasta that is shaped like rice which makes it perfect for using in pasta salads, soups, oven bakes and one pot pasta dishes. I haven't tried out any new recipes with risoni/orzo for quite some time and when I saw a post during Vegan MoFo called "Spicy Broccoli Orzo", I bookmarked it immediately.

The recipe from Big Mike Eat's interested me on a few different levels. The ingredients were certainly an appealing factor and I was also fascinated that Micah had used a wok to cook his meal in. I was tempted to follow suit but rather than pull out my wok, I stuck to my standard pasta cooking method using a large saucepan. I made a few changes to Micah's recipe by adding in an onion, using fresh garlic rather than powdered and swapping the dried rosemary and thyme for some basil.

This quick and simple one pot meal was declared to be a success by 2/3 of the household. My son and I loved it and the man was not so keen. We enjoyed the combination of chilli, lemon and basil but the man thought that the lemon flavour was too strong and also grumbled about there being too much black pepper. He really dislikes pepper so I usually put minimal amounts in dishes and add more to my own plate at the end. At least there was some home-made garlic bread on the side to keep him happy!

Spicy Broccoli Risoni (Adapted from Big Mike's Eats)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup risoni/orzo pasta
3 cups water
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 head broccoli
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and black pepper, to taste

Chop the head of broccoli into small florets and cut the stalks into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium and fry the onion for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the risoni and stir thoroughly.

Pour in the water and add the dried basil, chilli flakes and sea salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir through the broccoli and tomatoes and cook uncovered for another 3 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed after this time. Add the lemon juice and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.