This blog is a celebration of the wonderful world of vegan cooking. Enjoy!

* The title of this blog refutes the dangerous idea that veganism is a weight-loss diet and that all vegans are skinny. Conversely, being a-not-so-skinny-vegan is also not the same as being overweight or unhealthy. All food intake must be part of a balanced lifestyle.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weekend's Cooking... an ode to Timothy

So this is not what we had for dinner on Friday night. This is what my brother, very much a non-vegan, ate. And this is all he ate. So when someone asks me why I am vegan I could quite correctly conjecture that it is the universe's way of balancing out my brother's diet.

We had a Dhal Saag that I tried to make in light of the fact that I can't eat at A Night In India every night. I got the consistency right this time but not the flavour. I can't seem to get the spices right. I stupidly used chopped ginger instead of grated ginger and put ground cardamon in which taste a little funny. So hopefully I can get it right eventually and put the recipe on here.

I also tried to make nicer rice by putting in some saffron threads. Next time I should probably put the threads in some boiling water first and then stir it through the rice with some oil.

Geoff and I trawled through some of my recipe books for a quick and simple dessert idea. Geoff suggested Mango Rice Pudding from Linda Stoner's Now Vegan.

My mum gave me the book for my birthday last year. I really like it because it's Australian and so the ingredients are most likely found at your local supermarket.

Mango Rice Pudding
1 cup aborio rice
2 x 425g sliced mangos, drained with juice reserved
(I used a 800g tin because it was cheaper)
1 dessertspoon of cinnamon sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup water

Put raw rice, mango juice, cinnamon sugar, coconut milk, maple syrup and water on low heat for about 15 minutes. Make sure you are stirring constantly to avoid sticking and that the mixture comes to the boil (but don't let it boil for more than a few seconds). Take off heat, keep covered but stir every now and again until all liquid is absorbed, the rice is soft and it looks like rice pudding. You can re-heat if you want. I place the mango slices on top or you can mix them in as you re-heat. Suggested to be served with soy ice-cream but I did not.

So this was yummy and easy to prepare. It would have been easy to cook had I taken into account that my stove's low heat was too low and that I should have brought the rice to the boil. So I sat in front of Superbad with Geoff and my brother and Dad for a while stirring and waiting for the rice to absorb. It didn't until I put it back on the heat again and brought it to the boil. So make sure you heat it enough!

The Sunday was baking day. Last week I made Ahmad a Chocolate Cake for his birthday and then he informed me it was Ramadan and couldn't eat it so I cooked another one for him for Monday. And I also cooked a Carrot Cake (Geoff likes carrot cake) and some Mint Choc Cookies.

They tasted okay but I want to perfect the recipes before I share.

P.S. I have no idea why this post was an ode to Timothy. I just know that it was. And why wouldn't it be? Tim's awesome. Just check out his blog!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Would you eat meat if I...

I am often a little annoyed by the scenarios people give me to somehow pick a flaw in my moral belief structure. Such classic questions as "If I was going to kill a live chicken unless you ate an already dead chicken, you wouldn't let me kill the chicken, would you?" annoy the crap out of me.

I'm not killing the chicken. You are.

I was telling a vegetarian friend of mine today about the fact that I accidentally ate a piece of cheese that had been accidentally dropped onto my plate on the weekend at a fabulous little vegetarian diner we found in Burleigh Heads called The Magic Apple. I was joking around about how good it tasted and he didn't quite understand why I didn't eat cheese. We had a rather heated, at times misguided, debate about it but it was kind of fun.

I rather strongly adhere to the philosophy that anything we can do to eat less products from animals is better morally and for the environment. So I'm just as proud of someone giving up meat just one night a week in order to consume less meat than I am of my vegetarian friends. The more people that think about the question, the better it will be.

As a bit of an afterthought from our discussion I realised that I use silk and honey. We discussed the moral and environmental implications of my actions. I think I'm going to continue to use silk and honey.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Maree & Spiced Apple Cake

I didn't keep many friends from high school on account of being unforgiving and having attended school with a bunch of tarty little cows. Maree was one friend I did keep and I'm not too sure where I'd be without her for a few reasons. The first reason is that she always tells me the truth regardless of my feelings (that I don't have so it works out well). The second reason is that she listens to my outrageous love life stories with patience and good humour (and a lot of giggling). The third reason is that she bakes me vegan food that is delicious and I go to her house for yummy things like Spiced Apple Cake with Turkish Apple Tea (as I did tonight).

This recipe is for a Spiced Apple Cake that Maree baked for me tonight. It has a crumbling texture on the outside but is deliciously moist inside. It would be delightful served hot with ice cream or it was yummy by itself with some tea.

Spiced Apple Cake
450g cooking apples, peeled and sliced
115g vegan margarine
115 raw cane sugar
170g sultanas
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp boiling water
225g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice

Preheat to 180. Cook apples in some water and mash to puree when soft. Drain well. Cream margarine and sugar and then add apple puree. Stir in dried fruit. Mix, separately, the baking soda and water and add to creamed mixture. In separate bowl sift together the flour and spices and blend with the apple mixture. Pour into well-greased cake tin, smooth the top and bake bake bake. 45min-1hour. Maybe. Who knows? Who is John Galt?

Maree and I also discussed my blog and the movie that inspired it and she has given me a book to read called I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. It's a memoir of love and cooking all mixed in. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Sour cream, Chai lemon ginger muffins and camping.

Hmm. Camping. Not my favourite thing. But more of that later.

I tried my sour cream idea. It went a little something like this:
300g silken tofu
too many teaspoons of vinegar
a couple of teaspoons of lemon
(blend blend blend)
Crap, I'll have to add some flour because this is really sloppy. Let's chuck in a few fingerfuls.
(blend blend blend)
Oh God it's still sloppy.
(forget about it for a while)
Hmm. It's got some solidness. Let's serve it.

I'm serious, Ladies and Gentlemen; don't try this at home. It tastes nothing like sour cream, a little like bland mayonnaise, and needs much perfecting.

The spicy "Mexican" beans, on the other hand, turned out great. I used:
2 cans of red kidney beans with half the water drained off
1 red capsicum
1 red chili
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
some oil
chili powder, ground cumin, turmeric
pepper and salt

Fry the onions, garlic and chili. Add spices. Add capsicum and beans (with half water in the can in order to make the sauce). Make hot. May need to boil off some of the liquid depending on how you like your spicy "Mexican" beans. I served with tortillas, vegan sour cream, vegan guacamole, cut lettuce, tomato and grated carrot.

I tried something different this time for the guacamole. I just mashed up some avocado, added some lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of soft tofu and some salt and pepper to taste. It wasn't my best guacamole. I'm getting there, though.

After dinner I went to the task of baking for the weekend. I baked the good, ol' trusty banana cake (which didn't die a slow painful death this time in my less than spectacular oven) and Ginger Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking which is the most fantastic cookbook in the entire world.
Ginger (and Lemon) Muffins
2 tsp No-Egg
4 tbsp water
1/4 fresh minced ginger
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup soy milk
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 190 (or try to, in my case). Grease muffin tins (God bless oil in a spray can). Mix No-Egg and water. Supposed to use an electric hand mixer. I use a tea cup and a spoon. It's supposed to be thick and creamy. I just get white and liquidy. Combine ginger and 1/2 cup of sugar in saucepan over stove and stir constantly while the sugar melts. Set aside and add lemon zest when it cools but don't let it cool so much that it goes hard because this is a pain in the butt to get into the bowl. In another bowl mix flour, salt and baking soda. Then yet again in another bowl (God bless my Mix Master) beat butter then add to it the remaining sugar and beat until blended. Add No-Egg mixture and mix. Add milk and lemon juice and mix. Add dry ingredients from other bowl and the ginger/sugar until just blended. Put in muffin tins. Bake bake bake. 30 mins?

These muffins are delicious. But don't use dry ginger or ginger in a tube. Not good. And if you have the Texas Muffin tins use that instead because the muffins seem to come out better even though they are bigger so you make less. And if you, like me, run out of soy milk because your boyfriend eats more than all of Africa then you can use, if you have it, cold Chai in a carton that has been sitting in your fridge for over a week that should have been thrown out. This will make the muffins darker and taste a little like Chai but it'll still be good enough for your camping trip.

And so we've made it to the part in the blog post where I talk about camping. Well, the scenery was spectacular. We went on two 4km walks on Saturday and a 4km walk on Sunday. The falls are great. Spurling Brook falls are spectacular.

We camped at Springbrook in the camping area and it had a nice little BBQ area where we cooked up a nice vegan BBQ of vegie sausages, mushrooms, tomato, onion and sweet potato.

As soon as the sun went down, however, we noticed a ridiculous change in the temperature. And as soon as we stepped away from the warm BBQ area I felt my organs start to shut down with the cold.

I've never been so cold in my entire life and I never want to be that cold again. It's my birthday next month and all I want is a very, very good sleeping bag so I never have to be cold while camping again. And a good camping mattress so that my poor broken back can survive.

I think my complaining about the cold really tested poor Geoff's patience. Luckily I had Ginger Muffins and Banana Cake the next morning. I believe strongly in the old saying (that I made up just then):

You can be as annoying and mean as you like just be prepared to bake a lot to compensate for it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Google ads are great!

Because they led me to this great Australian website for vegan goods.

Vegan Sour Cream

I really like the "sour cream" that My Heart Garden in St Lucia uses on their Mexican Wrap. It's vegan and I always wondered how they made it. So I Googled a bit and think I have some idea.

The idea involves tofu and lemon.

All my ideas seem to involve tofu and lemon.

Lucky I have a lemon tree that grows all by itself and provides buckets of lemons.

In other news I cooked Geoff more banana cake and his oven also sucks and almost burned it.

Also, Geoff and I are going camping this weekend in the Gold Coast Hinterland. I cannot describe how much I hate camping but I'm excited about the prospect of cooking a picnic basket for the weekend and seeing waterfalls.

We are having Mexican tonight (because all I think about all day is food) and I will try out my sour cream idea.

I shared one of my delicious MarketSpice teabags from Seattle with a friend from work today. I think I have her addicted as well. I may start a tea distribution company.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Banana cake tells me I need new oven.

We ate dinner at Geoff's house last night. I know cooking for your vegan girlfriend is a bit trying but Geoff made a really yummy Thai green curry. I'm not sure if his recipe was vegan before he met me but it sure is now!

He asked me to bake a banana cake for dessert. Geoff likes his banana cake. So I started to prepare to cook. I like to get all the ingredients out first with the right utensils. So I asked for two mixing bowls, which I was given, and a cake tin. Geoff presented me with a flan dish. Ah, no, Geoff. Not what I wanted. Cake tin. Loaf tin. No cake tin? Not even a little loaf tin? Oh dear.

I ended up breaking into my friend's house who lives nearby. She was at a Hen's night but gave me permission to sneak in and steal a loaf tin. I couldn't find the light switches so it really could have been accompanied by the Mission Impossible theme song. But the loaf tin was found and the cake was baked.

The cake was great. Very yummy. I found the recipe here.

I told work I'd bake them something for my return tomorrow. So I thought I'd bake the same banana cake and some lemon and ginger muffins which I've always had great success with.

Well, the banana cake didn't turn out as great. My oven sucks. Seriously sucks. It doesn't cook evenly and can't maintain a constant temperature to save its life. Which is about to end. I also over preheated my oven and so it was too hot for the muffins, which I stuck in first, so they ended up hard on the outside and tasted like bread. I wasn't happy. That recipe has never failed me. I did, however, change it a bit by using that ginger you squeeze out of a tube instead of real ginger (I wasn't being lazy, Bi Lo Middle Park sucks donkey balls and didn't have ginger) and used less sugar. I also used less sugar in the banana cake recipe. Maybe I should just leave the sugar alone.

Anyway, now I'm depressed so am going to watch Pride and Prejudice and drink my new love: orange and cinnamon tea from the Spice Market in Pike Place Market in Seattle. I miss Seattle. I want a new oven. :(

Vegan Haggis and a Not-So-Cheesy Cheesecake

It was not until I had the haggis fully prepared as per recipe instructions that I realised that perhaps the recipe required prior knowledge of what exactly haggis was and how exactly it is normally prepared that went beyond what was described in the book. And it turns out that no one, including those who scoffed at my claim that I was cooking Vegan Haggis, actually knew what haggis was let alone what utensils it required to be prepared. All I could really get from anyone was that it involved some part of an animal. As my haggis was to be completely animal free this was not so helpful.

This is the recipe from Henderson's Wholefood Cookbook.

Vegan Haggis
75 g mushrooms (finely chopped)
75g brown lentils (soaked for two to three hours)
50g pinhead oatmeal (soaked for one hour)
50g red kidney beans (soaked, cooked and chopped)
25g vegan margarine
150g carrots (grated) [approx. one carrot]
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 tspn garam masala
freshly ground sea salt
150g onions (chopped) [approx. one onion]
1 tbspn soy sauce
1 tpsn vegetable oil
1/2 level tspn freshly ground black pepper

Saute garlic, onion and seasoning with a little oil until soft.

Add brown lentils and carrot and simmer on a low heat until lentils are soft, stirring to prevent sticking. The moisture content of the soaked lentils and carrot should be sufficient but if not add a little water. Add mushrooms and allow to soften. Add kidney beans. Stir in margarine and more black pepper to taste. Finally add oatmeal after (draining and rinsing) and mix well. The oatmeal should retain its texture.

Serve with clapshot - approx. 4 potatoes and one medium turnip boiled and mashed with a little margarine and seasoned to taste. Serves 4.

So I cheated a bit and used canned lentils and beans simply because I hadn't the foresight or time to soak them. Geoff and I were also walking around Woolworths trying to figure out what the hell oatmeal was. We ended up calling Grandma and asking her. She suggested Uncle Toby's Oats. We got Homebrand Quick Oats. I figured it would require less soaking time. And it was cheaper.

So after I finished following these directions I kind of had this brown mushy lump in a saucepan. I wasn't sure what to do with it. So I divided it up into three, wrapped it in baking paper and stuck it in the oven for a little while. I also served it with the red wine gravy recipe I linked to in the previous post.

It turned out well. It was certainly yummy. We only made half the gravy and didn't strain it although I would recommend making all of it and straining off the onion. At any rate it was a tasty dinner and not something I've ever cooked before.

Dessert was also from the same recipe book. It was supposed to be a Banana Tofu Cheesecake but didn't taste at all like cheesecake. It still had some very nice, subtle flavours and wasn't too sweet. The description of the ingredients was a little confusing, though. It called for one and a half blocks of tofu. Exactly how big a block is I don't know. So here is my suggested take on the recipe.

Banana Tofu Cheesecake
1 200g block of soft tofu
1 orange
175g coconut cream (it asks for creamed coconut but I don't know what that is so I just got a can of coconut cream and tried not to shake it and took the thick separated part off the top)
4 bananas + one extra for topping
1 flan case
1 small lemon

Mash tofu and bananas in a bowl with finely grated orange and lemon rind and their juice. Add all other ingredients and mix well and pour in flan case. Bake for approx. 30 minutes (I had it in there for 90 minutes, though) at 150 C until golden brown. Leave to cool. Slice extra banana into some orange juice and arrange over flan. Sprinkle with some coconut. You top it however you like, really.

I didn't even bother trying to find a flan case. I just grounded up some Digestives and mixed it with some melted vegan margarine and baked it for 15 mins in the flan case. I cooled it and then added the filling.

I used a 2006 Shiraz Viognier in the red wine gravy. I think a redder Merlot would have been better. Geoff drank the rest of it with the dinner so not a drop went to waste. Very economical of him.

All in all, despite my shortcuts and shortcomings, I think it was a lovely dinner.

Friday, September 4, 2009

And tonight's dinner will be...

When I was in Scotland my lovely friends Karen and Lindsay (alphabetically, Lindsay, don't panic) took me to Henderson's vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh. Three times. The first time we went I ordered the vegetarian haggis (which is actually vegan) and it was one of the tastiest things I've had in a long time. The spices in among the lentils and oats of the haggis were delightful and the red wine gravy it was served with tasted delicious among the clapshot (which is Scottish for mashed potatoes and turnip). I ate it all, despite my rather full stomach, because it was just so damn delicious.

On our third visit I noticed that they sold a rather small little cookbook with the recipes in it. So I purchased it with my meal (a delicious vegetable pastry with ratatouille) and planned to make good use of it despite the fact that most of the recipes were vegetarian and not vegan. The haggis, however, is vegan.

So when Geoff and I were discussing what we should cook for tonight's dinner and I casually picked up the little cookbook and suggested haggis Geoff seemed to think it would be a hilariously good idea. So, tonight's dinner, from Henderson's Wholefood Cookbook, will be:

Henderson's Vegetarian Haggis with Clapshot
followed by
Banana and Tofu Cheesecake

The haggis in Henderson's was served with a red wine gravy which really made the dish. However, the cookbook doesn't seem to have a recipe for it so I am going to following a recipe I found here.

I also have no idea how to get my hands on a vegan flan case as the recipe for the cheesecake asks for so I'll have to improvise. The internet seemed a little varied in its definition of a vegan flan case.

Wish me luck!