Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Hedgehog didn't appeal to me when I was a child. I don't recall my mum making hedgehog although I clearly remember my nanna eagerly offering me her chocolate and biscuit slice on many occasions. On reflection I hope nanna's feelings weren't hurt when I repeatedly rejected one of her signature sweets as my attention was usually focussed on the lemon slice and peppermint slice that my aunts would always provide.

The man has always been the complete opposite – he adores hedgehog and has asked me to make it for him numerous times over the years. It wasn't until he purchased an enormous chunk of vegan hedgehog from our local health food store that I tentatively took a bite and decided it was actually rather nice. After that I promised to try making hedgehog at home.

I went straight to Green Gourmet Giraffe in search of a recipe as I had a vague memory of Johanna being a hedgehog fan. Johanna's recipe looked uncomplicated and traditional, there were no additions like dried fruit or nuts which the man would be bound to dislike. Crushing the biscuits to the right size is possibly the trickiest part - Johanna wisely advises against using a food processor as the biscuits turn out too fine, instead she recommends placing the biscuits in a bowl and crushing them with a glass jar until they are approximately the size of 5 cent pieces. I opted to use the end of my marble rolling pin which also did the trick.

While the recipe wasn't vegan it was easy to veganise using Arnotts Nice biscuits in place of Marie biscuits, dairy-free margarine for the butter and a flaxseed egg instead of a chicken's egg. Both of my men adore this slice which I've made a couple of times recently. I think this has gone onto their favourites list and am sure that I will be requested to make this delicious slice again in the future.

Hedgehog (Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe)

200g Arnotts Nice biscuits
125g dairy free margarine
½ cup sugar
2 heaped dessertspoons cocoa
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
2 heaped dessertspoons desiccated coconut

Place the biscuits in a large bowl and crush them with the end of a heavy rolling pin or the base of a glass jar. The biscuit chunks should be no bigger than a 5 cent piece.

Melt the margarine in a small saucepan, stir through the sugar and cocoa and cook for 2 minutes. Mix the ground flaxseed and water together in a small bowl. Turn off the heat and stir through the flaxseed mixture and the coconut. Stir the crushed biscuits into the saucepan mixture thoroughly.

Line a 20 cm square dish with baking paper and spoon the contents of the saucepan into the dish. Spread it out to the edges evenly and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm then slice into squares and serve. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tikka Masala - two ways

Sometimes it can be worthwhile delaying a post. Earlier this year I began tinkering with a tikka masala recipe from one of my favourite omnivorous cookbooks – The Food of India. My original efforts used tofu in place of chicken which is the usually the main ingredient in this type of curry. An equally delicious version using cauliflower found it's way onto our plates several months later. Due to the tardiness of this post I am now able to provide you with two versions of this curry we have enjoyed many times and will continue to remain on our rotation of curry dishes.

The tofu for the tikka masala was prepared three different ways before deciding I preferred the latter method most. I followed a part of the original recipe too closely on my first two attempts, by threading the marinated tofu cubes onto skewers and frying them in a grill pan or broiling them in the top rack of my oven. Using skewers added more time to the dish without any benefit so my final method simply baked the marinated tofu cubes in the oven.

The beetroot powder in the marinade is not essential to the flavour of the curry, it's purely there to impart a colour similar to tandoori. I wasn't able to ascertain the ingredients of a tandoori colouring I bought many years ago from an Indian grocer so it went into the bin in case it contained cochineal. Experimenting with beetroot powder was initially a learning curve - it took a while for me to work out that the colour turned out less brilliant the longer the tofu or cauliflower was left to marinate.

Tofu tikka masala became a frequent request which I usually serve alongside a vegetable curry. The cauliflower alternative was instigated as I wanted to eat tikka masala with dal but felt we didn't really need another high protein dish on our plates and I always enjoy a good vegetable curry. Cauliflower seemed like a perfect vegetable to put to the tikka masala test as it is so lovely when roasted. And it most definitely passed the test!

Tikka masala is usually a mild creamy curry although the original version in The Food of India is very spicy like most of the recipes in this cookbook. I have lowered the spice quantities a little and would rate my version as a medium spicy dish. The creaminess is achieved by blending cashews with water into a thin liquid which tends to thicken when it is added to the curry sauce.

These days I am smitten with cauliflower tikka masala and rarely make the tofu version any more – not because I don't enjoy tofu tikka masala, merely as I love a combination of dal with a vegetable curry so much more.

Cauliflower or Tofu Tikka Masala (Adapted from The Food of India)


1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets OR 500g firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into 2cm cubes
1½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon beetroot powder (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
5 cm piece ginger
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup soy yoghurt
½ teaspoon sea salt

Curry sauce

½ cup cashews, soaked in water for a couple of hours, then drained and rinsed well
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
2 cardamom pods
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped for garnish

Place the paprika, cayenne pepper, garam masala, beetroot powder, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, coriander, soy yoghurt and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until it becomes a smooth paste, scraping down the sides a few times as necessary. Spread the cauliflower florets or tofu cubes in a single layer in a baking dish, pour over the marinade and mix thoroughly. Allow cauliflower to marinate for 30 minutes or the tofu for an hour or two.

Preheat oven to 200C. Bake cauliflower for 30 minutes or tofu for 40 minutes flipping the pieces over at the halfway mark.

Blend cashews and water until it becomes a smooth watery consistency.

Heat oil in a large deep sided pan over medium heat. Add the cardamom pods and onion and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Stir through the garlic for a minute, then add the tinned tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Stir through the ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and garam masala for a minute then pour in the thin cashew cream. Combine throughly then add the cooked caulifower florets or tofu cubes and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods before serving if you can find them! Serve garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Chicken" parmigianas

When I used to eat out at a pub in my former omnivorous life it was a pretty safe bet there would be a chicken parmigiana on my plate. After looking through the menu and finding it difficult to make up my mind, I would usually play it safe and end up choosing the parma. Although chicken parmigianas disappeared from my pub order many years ago, animal-free versions are eaten at home instead.

For several years it's been easy to curb the occasional parma craving with the assistance of Fry's chicken-style schnitzels, topped with Napoli sauce and vegan cheese. A slice or two of tofu bacon is also added if there is any leftover in the fridge. It wasn't until the arrival of Vegan Diner that I gathered inspiration from a couple of the seitan recipes and began to think about recreating my own.

 The taste and texture of the seitan recipes I've made from Vegan Diner so far has been impressive. Julie Hasson seems to have a knack when it comes to nailing combinations of dried herbs and spices which provide the seitan with wonderful flavours. The wet to dry ratio of ingredients is perfect unlike other seitan recipes I've made where I have needed to reduce the amount of liquid. After I had made Julie's skillet-baked panko cutlets (which reminded me of chicken parmigianas with totally different seasonings) and chicken-style seitan roast I thought about morphing the two recipes to create some parmigianas.

The chicken-style seitan lists a poultry seasoning in the ingredients which is something I'm not familiar with. A quick search told me that it's basically a mixture of dried herbs, the blend of herbs varied a lot between different sources. I went with some marjoram, sage, parsley, thyme and vegan chicken stock in place of the soy sauce in the recipe. The seitan ingredients are mixed together briefly in a bowl rather then kneaded with rest periods in between which makes it very easy to prepare. After flattening pieces of dough between your palms to create the schnitzels, it's just a matter of steaming and then allowing them to sit overnight before putting turning them into parmas. 

The seitan schnitzels are coated with flour, soy milk and breadcrumbs before they are lightly browned in the pan. After being transferred to a baking dish they are topped with Napoli sauce and grated vegan cheese. I've included a recipe for a quick smooth Napoli sauce I used for the topping, if you don't have the time or inclination some tomato paste thinned with water or a pizza sauce with herbs will also suffice. The parmas only require a short bake in the oven as they only need to be heated through and for the cheese to melt.

The parmas were a household hit - the combination of herbs in the seitan worked out perfectly.  Comments were made about the kitchen smelling like roast chicken while the schnitzels were steaming. I made nine schnitzels out of this batch which were purposely on the smaller side as seitan is quite filling. A combination of roasted vegetables were a delicious accompaniment, another good partner for this meal would be a side of fries and salad. I'm so pleased to have a few more batches of these schnitzels waiting in the freezer for the next time my parma craving hits.

Chicken schnitzels (Adapted from Vegan Diner)
Makes 8-9

2 cups gluten flour
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
¼ cup besan
1 tablespoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 heaped teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups vegan chicken stock (cold or at room temperature)

Place the gluten flour, nutritional yeast flakes, chickpea flour, onion flakes, marjoram, sage, parsley, thyme, salt and white pepper in a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Pour in the olive oil and vegan chicken stock and combine the ingredients with a spoon until a smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into equal sized pieces and flatten each piece between your palms to a size of approximately 10 cm x 10 cm. Place the flattened dough pieces into a steamer basket lined with foil, allowing the schnitzels to overlap slightly if necessary. Steam for 40 minutes then allow the schnitzels to cool down completely. Refrigerate before using. The seitan schnitzels may also be frozen if you aren't using them all at once.

Quick smooth Napoli sauce
Makes enough sauce to top 3-4 schnitzels

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
¾ cup tomato passata
pinch of dried basil (or use a few fresh basil leaves)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and allow it to sizzle for 10-30 seconds until the garlic begins to colour. Pour in the tomato passata and stir well then add the basil and season to taste. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Chicken Parmigianas

Preheat oven to 200C.

Set up three bowls for breading the schnitzels - plain flour in the first, soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in the second and breadcrumbs in the third. Cover a schnitzel with plain flour, wet it thoroughly with the soy milk mixture and then dunk it into the breadcrumbs ensuring it is well coated with the crumbs. Repeat for the other schnitzels.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat with some oil and fry the schnitzels until golden brown on both sides. Place the schnitzels in a baking dish, then top with Napoli sauce and grated vegan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In my kitchen - July 2013

Busy periods with work and home life over recent months has not provided me with as much time to post about what I've been cooking as I would like. Writing an "In my kitchen" post gives me the opportunity to skim over a few items that otherwise would have passed by. Thanks again to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this monthly event.

In my kitchen are Coco Luscious blueberry and choc chip cookie dough flavoured coconut ice-creams. I purchased a plain flavoured tub for the man a couple of months ago - he adored it so much that he volunteered to come to the health food store with me just so he could check out the other flavours! They are incredibly expensive so I'm glad he is eating them in moderation but I'm also happy that he has found a product to satisfy his ice-cream cravings. I wasn't a fan of the plain flavour as I'm not fond of big coconut flavours and found it was too strong for my taste. The blueberry flavour is nicer but I'm leaving these products for the man to enjoy as I've always preferred fruit flavoured sorbets over ice-creams.

In my kitchen was a Red and White Cauliflower bake. Years ago I used to make this recipe from Vegan Yum Yum on a semi-regular basis before tiring of it. I had separate requests from the man and young man within the space of a few hours to make this – funnily enough it was my okara loaf that reminded them both of this dish (I couldn't make the connection at all). The cauliflower bake was always a favourite meal of theirs so I had to come through with the goods. The base is made of a herb infused tofu "ricotta", the centre layer contains steamed cauliflower tossed through a cheezy sauce and a napoli sauce topped with breadcrumbs completes the dish.

In my kitchen is home brewed beer. We attempted to brew our own beer many years ago and it was a miserable failure. Some of the man's work colleagues are keen beer brewers so their know-how and tips convinced him to give it another shot. This project mainly takes place in the laundry although the kitchen is also used for boiling heaps of water, preparing brewers yeast and sterilising bottles. I'm happy to say that these recent efforts have been worth it!

In my kitchen is Frank's Red Hot Sauce. I nearly fell over last weekend when I spotted this new addition to the condiments section at my local Woolworths as I've seen so many buffalo tofu and seitan recipes on US blogs that use this sauce as one of the main ingredients. I'm looking forward to playing around with this spicy sauce very soon.

In my kitchen is some kale from the garden. The plants look like they have so much to offer but after I cut so much off them I'm always disappointed with how the kale cooks down into such a tiny amount. Perhaps I'll add some into a stew or curry next time instead of cooking it separately as a side dish. Kale chips are another option I'm considering...

In my kitchen are lots of Indian curries! I'm always in the mood for curries and have been making them very regularly lately. Cold weather is perfect for eating spicy curries so I've been enjoying trying out different recipes on a weekly basis. The new recipes aren't always as successful as the ones I love and often revisit but every now and then I come across one that's a keeper. This week featured toor dal saag and aloo pooriyal, both were nice enough but didn't quite meet the high standards we have for curry recipes.

What’s been happening in your kitchen lately?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stir fried snow pea shoots

When I started planning and planting a vegetable garden a few months ago, I knew there was a lot to learn. I'm not a complete novice in this area although my previous efforts were centred on spring and summer plants rather than vegetables that develop slowly throughout autumn and winter. It's been rewarding to harvest and cook small crops of kale, bok choy and pak choy yet slightly frustrating when things haven't worked out as they should (a few mistakes have been made along the way which I'm happy to count as part of the learning experience). An added bonus of expanding my gardening knowledge has been discovering other valuable information about certain vegetables that was previously unbeknownst to me

Many vegetable plants serve multiple purposes – the leaves of a beetroot plant can be cooked and eaten as well as the beetroot bulb that is more well known in culinary circles. That's a fairly common example I was already aware of. A new one for me was that the leaves of brussel sprout and broccoli plants are also edible greens. Prior to this discovery, I had been lamenting that my broccoli and brussel sprout plants may not have been planted early enough in the season – I'm looking at these plants in a new light now, at least I'll get a feed from their greens if the vegetables don’t mature.

I was also thrilled to learn recently that certain sections of snow pea vines can be eaten and are commonly consumed in some Asian cuisines. The growth on the vines of my snow peas has been phenomenal and now extends well over the boundaries of the supports I originally put in place for them (that was one of my learning experiences). While I was desperately hunting around for a solution to my bending vines I stumbled across ways to cook snow pea shoots/tips. It was a win-win situation – the wayward vines could be given a light prune and the clippings cooked up as a side dish.

It was suggested that the shoots are best enjoyed stir-fried with a little oil, I was happy to give them this treatment as I've been savouring all of my latest home grown produce in the simplest possible ways. I read about cooking snow pea shoots in a few different places but it was these two posts on Serious Eats I referred to when trying to work out the right sections to use and preparation methods. I was cautious to chop off the many curly tendrils as the texture of them was likened to dental floss which didn't sound particularly appetising.

After the snow pea shoots were trimmed of tendrils, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner it was only a matter of giving them a quick stir-fry in the wok with a bit of oil. I was so concerned that I was going to overcook them that they ended up being slightly underdone and a bit on the crunchy side. The shoots had a very similar taste to snow peas which we really enjoyed. Michael of where's the beef  posted a recipe for Chilli lime tamarind tofu last week which I felt would be a perfect partner for our simple greens. The tofu was easy to prepare and full of bold spicy flavours, the only change I made to this was to add some garlic to the marinade - it was a delicious tofu dish which I'll be happy to revisit again.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kuala Lumpar Malaysian Restaurant

After two and a half years of blogging, I'm ashamed that it's taken this long to post about the place we eat out at most regularly. Kuala Lumpar Malaysian Restaurant (which we usually refer to as KL) has been our favourite place to dine at for many years as their delicious veg food won us over and still entices us back often. It's always worth the 10 minute car trip to the suburb of Carnegie which is bustling with so many other types of restaurants we simply cannot bring ourselves to try. 

A variety of dishes have been sampled over the years although our order rarely changes from our favourites these days. The vegetarian Mee Goreng (ordered without egg) is a pile of stir-fried wheat based noodles with some onion, carrot, Asian greens and beanshoots. The sauce can vary in spiciness on a given night so if we are feeling like some extra heat we ask for it to be extra spicy and they never disappoint us. The man loves this dish and gets especially excited by the slightly charred noodles.

Spicy salted tofu is adored by everyone who tries it, our extended family members also order it regularly too. The deep fried chunks of tofu are cooked in a salted batter with a subtle hint of Chinese 5 spice. The tofu is served on a bed of deep fried vermicelli noodles and topped with shallots, spring onions, chillies and lots of garlic. It's important to note that all of the tofu items on the menu use a homemade egg tofu by default which can be switched to a standard tofu upon request. Ask for the "white tofu" when placing your order as that's how they refer to it at KL.

Last but not least is the Claypot mixed vegetables in a Malaysian curry sauce. The claypot is full to the brim of carrots, broccoli florets, snow peas, a mixture of Asian greens and occasionally some mushrooms. It is delivered to the table with a piping hot bubbling sauce which the claypot keeps warm for ages - we learnt the hard way to let it cool down a bit before diving in. The curry sauce is spiced with star anise, cloves, curry leaves, chilli and coconut milk amongst other things. The quantity of curry sauce and it's spiciness can vary on a given night, we love it when there is loads of sauce so we can finish our meals with extra curry sauce ladled over the remaining rice in our bowls.

Some of the other meals we have sampled over the years are curry eggplant, mixed vegetables with garlic sauce, spinach with garlic sauce and other noodle dishes. A new dish called Nonya tofu was recently added to the specials board  - we haven't ordered this yet but plan to in the near future. We were advised during a recent conversation with one of the owners that they are looking to expand the veg section of the menu as their vegetarian customers have been on the rise.

Kuala Lumpar has been in operation for many years and maintains a very good reputation amongst the locals. It's advisable to book a table for dining on Friday or Saturday night as the restaurant is generally very busy. The service is usually efficient and the food is always delicious. 

123 Koornang Road, Carnegie 
9563 6707
Open Tues-Sun for lunch and dinner
Veg main meals range from $13-$16

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Around the world - Stopover 28 - Albania

Albania is a small country in Europe, sharing borders with Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. It has a coastline on the Adriatic Sea with mountainous areas inland. Meat is used heavily in dishes throughout most of the country and seafood is commonly eaten in the coastal regions. Vegetables are also an important factor in Albanian meals which are usually purchased fresh from farmers markets on a daily basis.

Albania threw my around the world cooking into a bit of chaos. An Albanian white bean soup called Jani me Fasule, which was my original cooking attempt, didn't end up getting eaten as the soup it was intended to be. A hefty amount of ground cinnamon was mistakenly added to the soup rather than cayenne pepper which threw the flavours out of whack - I posted about how this blunder was resurrected into some decent tasting burgers recently. After this mishap, I wasn't keen to make the soup again and hunted around for more Albanian recipes.

It didn't take long to find another Albanian dish that sounded appealing yet it took over a month to get around to making it. An oven baked leek casserole called Tave me Presh sounded like a perfect mid-winter dish to veganise using French puy lentils and mushrooms in place of ground meat. The only uncertainty I had regarding the original ingredients was mild red pepper. I wasn't sure if this was intended to mean red capsicum/bell pepper or a sweet paprika and decided to use the latter.

This casserole has a fairly short ingredient list and didn't take long to construct. As I wasn't confident of winning the man and young man over with this dish, I served it with some of their favourite sides – roasted carrots, broccoli and garlic bread. They neither loved nor disliked the casserole, this was a win in my eyes. Apart from it being slightly underseasoned which was easily rectified at the dinner table, I really enjoyed the oniony flavours of the leeks paired with the earthy lentils and mushrooms. Perhaps it was fate the soup hadn't worked out after all as I certainly didn't regret making this hearty dish.

Tave me presh/Albanian leek casserole - (Adapted from this recipe page containing 20 Albanian recipes)

½ cup French puy or standard brown/green lentils (or use a 400g tin of drained and rinsed lentils)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts, sliced into 2cm rounds
1 onion, diced
150g mushrooms, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup vegan beef stock (or use vegetable stock)
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 200C.

If using dry lentils, place them in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until tender. Drain the lentils in a colander.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep sided frying pan and sauté the leeks over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until softened and beginning to colour. Transfer the leeks to a 20 x 20 cm casserole dish.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes until softened then add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and beginning to release juices. Add the beef stock, lentils, tomato paste, paprika, salt and pepper to taste and allow to simmer for a minute. Pour the mixture over the top of the leeks in the casserole dish.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Most of the juices will have evaporated after this time and the top will have browned slightly.


Did you know?

The local name of Albania is called Shqiperia which can be translated to "Land of the Eagles" or "Children of the Eagles". The main emblem of the Albanian flag is a two headed eagle.