Thursday, June 28, 2012

A different week in the kitchen

It certainly has been a different week in my kitchen - not a chilli in sight! I wanted to write about this recent period as my cooking has felt entirely different to what is usually on the menu. The man had minor surgery last week (nothing serious) and has needed to eat blander food than usual during his recovery. I usually sway towards spicy meals and probably cook them about 50% of the time so I took this as a perfect opportunity to broaden my horizons a little.

Last weekend I made pierogis which was fun to do but very time consuming. I prepared the dough, a potato-fried onion-dill filling, a sauerkraut-mushroom filling and fried onions for topping ahead of time which was rather simple to do. When it came to putting these little dumplings together, it felt like it took forever and even that was with the aid of a pasta machine to roll out the dough.

I had a few issues with getting the thickness right and initially made the dough too thin which meant that it wasn't robust enough to contain the filling. Another issue I ran into was overstuffing the dumplings which is something I have been guilty of doing in the past with Asian dumplings and really should know better by now. Once those issues were ironed out it was still a lengthy process to manually seal the dumplings and in hindsight I should have used my handy little dumpling press for this task.

The good news was that the pierogis tasted fantastic, the bad news is that I can't share the recipe as it is from Terry Hope Romero's new cookbook that will be released in October. We all preferred the potato and dill filling out of the two and I was especially pleased to find a recipe that made me appreciate this herb as it hasn't been one of my favourites in the past.

With a surplus of dill leftover I investigated other ways to make use of it. Beef stroganoff was something we used to enjoy years ago when we ate meat and then a mushroom version when we were vegetarian. I've been meaning to try a vegan recipe for a while using slices of tempeh and a sour cream replacement so I gave it a shot. I looked up a few different recipes from my cookbooks to get some inspiration but nothing was exactly what I was looking for so I ended up creating my own version inspired from about 3 recipes. I was very happy with the flavour of this meal and the man adored this so I'll have to make it again. I'm going to hold off posting a recipe for now as the consistency of the sauce was too thick and the way I prepared the tempeh needs a little tweaking so stay tuned for this one.

Tonight was the man's birthday and I made him a vegan spanakopita which incorporated baked almond feta which was posted by Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe recently. Johanna mentioned in her post that the cheeze needed more oomph and even with a bit of extra salt, it still wasn't tasty enough. The texture was great as it was creamy and a bit crumbly so I'll be revisiting the feta in the future. The spanakopita was pretty good although a little lacking in salt so once again I'll be tweaking this recipe further before posting my version. 

I'm so used to writing up a post with the objective of sharing a recipe so it feels strange to leave you without one this time around. In recent times I've been cooking up way more than I have had time to write about so at least it feels good to share some of my photos and experiences of the previous week. And even though I'm beginning to crave a spicy meal, it has been anything but a bland week of eating.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Latchkey lime pie

A couple of weeks ago my mother in law and I did a home-grown produce swap of limes for lemons which threw me a little. I had been planning so many things to make with lemons and didn't have much stored up in the way of lime recipes. Limes are something I frequently use in guacamole, cashew cream, stir-frys etc. and I adore their flavour although I've never made anything that features limes in a starring role. It wasn't until the man gently persuaded me to make something sweet that I recalled a Post Punk Kitchen recipe that had been stashed away for a while - key lime pie.

I've never eaten key lime pie before so I was never going to have anything to make a proper comparison with. I decided to use the sweet shortcrust pastry from Wrapped in Pastry (with lime juice and zest instead of lemon) as I've made this a couple of times now and it has always worked perfectly. When it came to the filling, a few adjustments needed to be made to cater for what was in the pantry. I was out of almond milk and substituted soy milk, my supply of coconut milk was rather low so I included less than the original recipe and increased the soy milk quantity slightly and used cornflour instead of tapioca flour. 

The pie took hours to complete yet there wasn't much active work throughout the process. The shortcrust pastry needs an hour to rest prior to rolling out and baking and the pie filling was cooled on the bench for a while prior to it's setting time in the fridge, in total it would have been about 5 hours from start to finish. The man asked about having a biscuit layer on top so I indulged him with this request and ran a handful of Nice biscuits through the food processor for this purpose.

The man and I adored this pie and agreed that it was totally worth the wait! It was more refreshing than a lemon tart, with a lovely citrus tang and wasn't overly sweet which I always appreciate. The young man was not convinced, it seems that he is more attracted to lemon based sweets. Recipes like this make me long for a lime tree in my garden as I would happily revisit this recipe often to deal with a surplus of limes.

Latchkey lime pie (Pastry adapted from Wrapped in Pastry, lime filling adapted from PPK)

Sweet shortcrust pastry

2 cups plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar
½ cup dairy-free margarine
¼ cup soy milk
1 tablespoon lime juice 
1 tablespoon lime zest

Sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl then sprinkle the lime zest over the top. Using your fingers, cream the margarine into the flour/sugar/zest mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs. Drizzle in the lime juice and soy milk slowly, mixing it through with a butter knife until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple of minutes until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Roll out the pastry between two pieces of plastic wrap or baking paper to an even thickness of about 1cm. Press the pastry into a greased and floured 25cm tart tin, patching up any bare places with leftover dough if necessary. Run a knife around the top edge of the tin to remove any excess pastry which will also neaten it's appearance.

Blind bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and a golden brown colour. Allow the pastry to cool completely before adding the filling.

Lime filling

1 tablespoon lime zest
2/3 cup lime juice
2 x 165ml light coconut milk (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons cornflour
½ cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essense
2 teaspoons agar powder
450ml soy milk (at room temperature)

Arnotts Nice biscuits, crushed, for topping (optional)

Whisk the lime zest, lime juice, coconut milk, cornflour, sugar and vanilla essense together in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Place soy milk and agar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved. Slowly pour the contents of the mixing bowl into the saucepan, stirring often. Continue to cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and allow it to cool on the kitchen bench for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until firm and set, about 2-3 hours. Top with crushed Arnotts Nice biscuits, if desired.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Roasted chipotle sprouts

First of all, I would like to apologise to anyone who read this post in it's half completed state. I'm going to blame my error of hitting the "Publish" button rather than "Preview" on post earthquake jitters! Needless to say I was rather embarrassed about releasing an incomplete post. Oh well, it's a reminder that accidents happen and we all make mistakes from time to time. ;-) 

We had a mix match Mexican inspired dinner last Friday night. I wanted to use up the rest of Cadry's black beans in soft tacos but there were only enough beans for a single taco each. I thought about my available ingredients for a while and came up with the following simple solution - spicy roasted vegetables. It had been a while since I made a batch of my Mexe wedges so they were definitely going to be in and I also recalled how delicious the chipotle carrots chips from where's the beef had been when I had tried them recently.

On this night I really felt like eating some greens so instead of carrots I decided to test the recipe out with brussel sprouts. I've enjoyed smoky sprouts before and spicy ones shredded into stir frys although I've never combined these two wonderful flavours with sprouts. Another bonus of using sprouts was the shortened cooking time as they take less time to roast than carrots.

It's a very simple recipe to prepare, after prepping your veggies it's just a matter of mixing through some finely chopped chipotle chillies in adobo sauce along with a bit of oil and salt before roasting in the oven. I used 2 chipotle chillies which gave the sprouts a decent amount of heat and added a bit of lime juice to the mix this time as I had been squeezing limes for guacamole and had a little bit of juice leftover. It's difficult to pick a favourite of these two vegetables roasted in this tasty blend as they are both unique in their own way. This is a different way to prepare roasted vegetables and they pair well with any Mexican themed meal, especially in cold weather when salad items aren't as appetising.

Before I leave you with the recipe, Kari of Bite-sized thoughts kindly nominated me for the Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Many thanks Kari! I feel honoured to receive this award and am even more excited to hand it out to others who I believe are better storytellers than myself. The bloggers I would like to nominate are:

The Food Stories Award requires the recipient to share a random fact about themselves as well as passing the award onto 5 other bloggers. Here is my fact.

I don't wear any make-up at all and have never used moisturisers, hand lotions, etc. There was a stage in my late teens when I did wear make-up and I have popped a little bit on for an occasion like a wedding but I don't enjoy the heavy fake feel of it. I'm sure my skin is thankful for this and the other bonus was that I didn't need to consider product changes when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

Roasted chipotle sprouts (Adapted from where's the beef, originally from Tofu for Two)

500g brussell sprouts
1-2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼-½ teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C.

Trim the sprouts of their outer leaves and cut into halves. Place the sprouts in a bowl, toss the rest of the ingredients over the top and use your hands to coat the sprouts in the mixture evenly.

Bake in the oven on a roasting tray lined with baking paper for 20 minutes, flipping the sprouts after about 10 minutes.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Black bean taco pizza

There are so many different pizza recipes around the blogosphere. Pizza seems to be one of those things that is very open to experimentation which makes a lot of sense to me. When you make your own pizza from scratch, the base is like a blank canvas waiting for creativity to happen. Pizza experiments are by no means guaranteed to succeed every time but when I read Cadry's entertaining post about black bean taco pizza, I certainly felt like I was onto a winning combination.

When I mentioned this pizza as a dinner prospect, the man was interested in the black bean topping. The young man didn't care about the rest of the pizza toppings, he was just delighted that there were going to be corn chips on top.

I made half a batch of my usual pizza dough and a batch of Cadry's black beans. When it comes to pizza, I'm a bit lax with making my own sauce and normally use Leggos pizza sauce with garlic and herbs. The corn chips I used for the topping were Mission brand lime and chilli tortilla chips which had a nice kick to them. This was one of the nicest pizzas we have had recently, the spice from the beans and a bit of crunch from the corn chips made it completely unique to pizzas we normally eat. We liked it so much it will definitely be repeated again. 

Black bean taco pizza (Adapted from Cadry's Kitchen)

½ quantity pizza dough
Leggos pizza sauce with garlic and herbs or tomato paste
½ quantity Cadry's spicy black beans
½ small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
150g button mushrooms, sliced
½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
½ green capsicum, thinly sliced
12 kalamata olives, cut in halves
handful of mission lime and chilli tortilla chips, crumbled
150g cheezly, grated

Prepare the pizza dough. While the dough is resting make the spicy black beans and prepare the rest of the toppings.

Preheat oven to 230C.

After the dough has doubled in size (approx 1 hour), punch it down on a floured surface. Roll the dough out to the size of a pizza tray. Place the dough on your tray then spread the pizza sauce/tomato paste evenly on top followed by the black beans. Add the onion, mushrooms, capsicum and olives then scatter the corn chips on top followed by the cheezly.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the dough is cooked.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lemon poppy seed cake

This may look like just another cake, to me it's a lot more than that! I'm fairly certain that this would have to be one of the best cakes I have ever baked, vegan or otherwise. It ticked all of the right boxes - light, moist, lovely flavour without being too sickly sweet and it was very simple to bake. The only box it didn't tick is that it's not exactly healthy which doesn't bother me as life is too short to worry about eating the right things all of the time.

Over the past month or so, our lemon tree has been taunting me. From a distance it appears there are plenty of fruit ready to be picked. When I'm about to rip some off ready for baking I discover green patches on the base or one side of the fruit and have to resort to the lemons from the grocers. So I have continued to wait patiently, planning many more recipes to make than I possibly could with my limited supply of fruit. It's only the first season the tree has been in the ground and with over 30 lemons this year, I'm optimistic for an even bigger crop next year.

Right up on the top of my list to make was a lemon poppy seed cake. I was planning to adapt it from an orange poppy seed cake recipe that my mother in law had given me years ago but I couldn't track down the recipe. A quick search led me to a lemon poppy seed cake on that needed a few vegan substitutions to be made. A further replacement had to be made for the self raising flour when I found a few nasty weevils lurking within my packet. Using plain flour plus baking powder for the self raising flour, nuttelex for the butter, soy milk for cow's milk, a bit of extra lemon juice and egg replacers I was delighted with how light and moist the cake turned out.

An interesting point to note from the recipe was that the poppy seeds were required to be soaked in warmed soy milk for 15 minutes initially. There was no explanation for this on so I did some further research and found that it was to soften the seeds and prevent them from drawing moisture out of the cake whilst baking. I'll never know if this made a difference as I don't think I'll make it any other way now!

Lemon poppy seed cake (Adapted from a recipe on

50g poppyseeds
3/4 cup warm soy milk
1 cup raw castor sugar
2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg replacers (I used 3 teaspoons Orgran whisked with 6 tablespoons water)
185g dairy-free margarine, softened
zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice


1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon dairy-free margarine
2 tablespoons (or a bit more) lemon juice

Mix the poppy seeds into a jug containing the warmed soy milk and allow to soak for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 23cm x 10cm loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, place the castor sugar, plain flour, baking powder, egg replacers, dairy-free margarine, lemon zest, lemon juice and soy milk/poppy seed mixture. Beat with electric hand beaters until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar together with a teaspoon of dairy-free margarine and slowly drizzle in the lemon juice, stirring all the time. If the icing becomes too runny, stir through some more icing sugar. When the cake has completely cooled down, spread the icing on top of the cake then refrigerate for 5 minutes to allow the icing to set.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Gasometer (also fondly known to us as Bloatometer) has become one of our favourite places to grab a quick, tasty meal and a refreshing beer. Gasometer has only previously been mentioned once on my blog in a post filled with other eating out experiences, yet we have enjoyed eating here five times in the past six months. Vegan options are plentiful with around five main meal options to choose from as well as a selection of entrees and sides. Upon hearing that the menu had gone away from the original US diner style food, I anxiously waited to hear other peoples impressions about the change of menu to Eastern European food before making the trip across town.

After Cindy and Michael from where's the beef delivered with a comprehensive review, we were back to try it out for ourselves within the week. There was no variety in our selection of meals as we both went there with the exciting promise of a vegan pastrami burger and after perusing the menu, nothing could change our minds. The pastrami burger certainly delivered on taste and wasn't as unbearably filling as some of the previous mock-meat items had been. The pastrami seitan was sliced extremely thinly and contained so much flavour on it's own. When paired with coleslaw, beetroot relish and vegan goats cheese, the burger was a taste sensation! The only thing we would have liked a bit more of was the goats cheese as it tasted fantastic when you got a hit of it.

The fries were almost the same as they had been with the old menu, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and perfectly seasoned. There was no aioli to accompany them this time, but I'm more than happy to eat them without.

Gasometer pulls in quite a crowd so if you're dining with children or needing a quick bite, I recommend going before 7pm to secure yourself a table. Oh and the latest on their Facebook page is that vegan pierogies are on this week!

The new menu at Gasometer has only been reviewed by where's the beef so far.

484 Smith St, Collingwood
Ph: 9417 5538

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chickpea soup with mint and lemon

Recipe bookmarks tend to pile up and get out of control if you're a person like me. I am always adding more to the list and my occasional attempts to cull the older ones that have been hanging around for a while doesn't really seem to work. I guess I am addict when it comes to hoarding recipes!

I bookmarked a chickpea, lemon and mint soup from Green Gourmet Giraffe almost two years ago now. Johanna had made an interesting soup from Stephanie Alexander's cooking bible The Cook's Companion which is a cookbook I was given as a wedding present many years ago. The main reason for bookmarking Johanna's post was to remind me to look this recipe up in my copy as the size of this book and the thousands of recipes within can be rather daunting at times.

With some mint in the fridge that needed using up and a few lemons on my tree that were finally ripe, now was the perfect time to give this a try. I did forget to buy celery that was intended for the soup when I was out shopping and made a few vegetable alerations. Stephanie's method was different to other soups I had made and I didn't really follow her instructions and used my intuition more than anything. As I prefer my soup to be on the thicker side, I decreased the amount of stock which turned out to be a wise decision.      

The only issue I had with the recipe was the amount of lemon that was written in the ingredients, it was listed as the juice of 2 lemons. Lemons come in various shapes and sizes and some are juicer than others. Like Johanna, I only used about one and a half lemons and found this to be on the strong side initially although the addition of the mint and parsley garnishes did a good job of balancing out the flavours. This soup was lovely and creamy and simple to make, it just requires a bit of planning ahead as the chickpeas need to be soaked in advance.

Chickpea soup with mint and lemon (Adapted from The Cook's Companion and Green Gourmet Giraffe)

250g dry chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 leeks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
6 cups vegetable stock
Juice of 1½ lemons (just under half a cup)
½ teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Soak the chickpeas in a bowl filled with water overnight or at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse thoroughly in a colander.

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a stockpot and add the coriander and cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle and smell fragrant, add the leeks, carrot and potato. Cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 1 - 1½ hours until the chickpeas are soft.

Transfer the contents to a blender and process in batches until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot and reheat on low. Stir through the lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with mint and parsley.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies were my favourite biscuits when I was growing up. They were so simple to bake and I used to love pinching as many chocolate chips as possible without being caught when my mothers back was turned. A few weeks ago when I had a craving for some bikkies, I pulled out my copy of The Joy of Vegan Baking and gave the chocolate chip cookie recipe a try.

It was the first recipe I had made from this cookbook that I've been unsatisfied with and my main gripe was the cookies were way too oily. I didn't want to give up on finding a perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and remembered that I had scribbled down the one from my childhood during a phone conversation with my mum many years ago. When I tracked it down amongst my recipe clippings I suspected that a vegan adaptation of this recipe would work out to my liking.

It seemed like an easy recipe to veganise by substituting dairy free margarine for butter and using an egg replacer yet it wasn't all smooth sailing. After mixing in the flour, the dough seemed too firm so I quickly added in a bit of soy milk to rectify the situation. The recipe has been written with the soy milk added earlier as that is how I will make it next time around.

The young man is a big fan of chocolate chip cookies too which isn't surprising as he has such a sweet tooth. He preferred this version over the ones from the Joy of Vegan Baking so I'll be sticking with it in the future. I'm not 100% certain where the original recipe came from although I am fairly sure it was from a Women's Weekly cookbook, most likely the Beautiful Biscuits volume.

Chocolate chip cookies (Probably adapted from Women's Weekly Beautiful Biscuits)
Makes 20-24

1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
125g dairy free margarine
1 egg replacer (I used Orgran)
1 teaspoon vanilla essense
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Sweet William brand)
olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cream the sugars together with the dairy free margarine in a large bowl. Prepare the egg replacer according to the package directions in a small bowl then pour this into the large bowl. Drizzle in the vanilla essense and soy milk and beat until combined. Add the bicarb of soda, salt and plain flour and beat until combined. Fold through the chocolate chips.

Prepare a large baking tray by lining it with baking paper and spraying lightly with olive oil. Take heaped dessert spoons of the mixture, roll them into balls and place onto the baking tray. Allow ample room for them to spread. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the cookies to sit for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.