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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quick & Tasty Crunchy Garlic and Chilli Broccoli

I mentioned a little while ago that I bought a book called Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me: A Chef's Stories and Recipes from the Land. This is not a review. Yet.

I've actually only made it to the second chapter of this beautiful, carefully crafted book. But despite the fact that I love it I could not go any further reading it. Why? Well... I was just so overwhelmed. I now realise that I know nothing about vegetables. The crappy little green things we get in supermarkets are pale imitations of the real thing.

So, I was reading this wonderful book and I was thinking: "I've got no fricken clue what vegetable he's talking about." And he mentions quite a few.

My solution was to finish chapter one (on green vegetables), put the book down and go out into the markets and at least see some of these vegetables. However...

... no plan runs a smooth course. The fact that I spend all the hours of daylight in the CMS (Centre for Mathematical Sciences) or in the lab (the Cavendish lab!) has hindered my ability to get to any sort of market before it has closed. And, thanks to distance between Cambridge and my beloved equator, there seems to be less and less sunlight in the day. Also, my brain is so fried by the time I get home I've resorted to mashed potato and soy sausages two nights in the last fortnight! (I know, dear readers, times are tough.)

Until a time comes when I no longer sleep, dream and breathe numerical methods of solving partial differential equations and I get to go out into the sun I intend to massage my poor brain with lighter reading (Julie & Julia, in fact: the book that inspired the movie that inspired this blog. And some new recipes... but more of that another time...). I also intend to keep buying the crappy vegetables at Sainsburys (it's open until 11pm!).

I adapted this recipe from my Wild Garlic book for everyone else that doesn't leave their desk until 8pm and needs something quick and tasty but preferably green to go with their soy sausage (that isn't that fresh and was probably ripened by gas in some big shed somewhere and shipped to Sainsburys or Tesco or Woolies or Walmart and then sat in your crisper for a week while you ate choc chip cookies instead of vegetables... yes, those people... those people like me...).

Crunchy Garlic and Chilli Broccoli

1 head of broccoli
2 long red chillis, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/8 cup of walnuts (or cashews)
1tbsp soy sauce
olive oil

Break off the heads of the broccoli and halve any bigger heads so that they are all bite sized. (You can also chop up some of the stalk and include it if you don't want to waste it!)

Heat a pan to medium to hot, without oil, and lightly roast the walnuts making sure you constantly move the pan so that they don't burn. After a minute or two, turn them out onto a clean chopping board, chop them up (carefully, they'll be hot) and put aside.

Put the pan back on the heat and add the oil. The pan should still be fairly hot so chuck a small piece of garlic in to test the oil (it should sizzle slightly) and then if it is hot enough put in the rest of the garlic and the chilli. Quickly fry for a minute and then put in the broccoli. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. You want the broccoli to be bright green and firm. I like mine on the crunchy side. You definitely do not want it to be yellow and soggy (the ones in the photo are a little too yellow).

When it's ready throw in the nuts and soy sauce, stir for 30 seconds and take it off the heat.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coffee coffee coffee!

Geoff bought me a coffee machine for my birthday. I cannot express how much this makes our little household happy.
It's a DeLonghi EC155 Black Silver Espresso Machine 1100W.

It was only £60 and for the price it is fantastic! 

Geoff bought some really nice ground beans from Coffee Bean Shop Ltd. He actually bought 1kg of four different types. We're into the No. 1 Roast at the moment and it's delicious!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chocolate Ginger Snaps

So after spending my entire weekend staring at a computer screen (I'm teaching myself C while simultaneously doing all my computational science assignements in C) I felt I needed a treat. So, inspired by this delicious blog, I grabbed some ginger snaps from the cupboard and covered them in melted chocolate.

You can do this with pretty much any biscuit. Just grab some vegan biscuits, melt some vegan chocolate in the microwave (a minute or two will do) and coat the biscuits in the chocolate. Lay them on baking paper and stick them in the fridge for 15 minutes and voila! High fat, delicious biccies for your afternoon snack!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How To Be a Cambridge Vegan III

I have neglected to tell my loyal readers (all four of you) that we recently moved into a much nicer/bigger/more expensive/shower-able flat. This is it on the left. Those big windows on the top* floor there are all ours.

If you plan on stalking me in Cambridge with the use of this picture... good luck. All the houses around the city centre look the same.

Despite my lack of tools** I've recently been experimenting with some new recipes and spent a long while today in the bookstore looking for vegan cookbooks. I ended up finding a few but was annoyed at their lack of pictures and the fact that they were all mostly by the one author. So I bought a vegetarian "cookbook" called Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me: A Chef's Stories and Recipes from the Land.

The reason I chose this book over the vegan ones was because I enjoyed I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A Memoir of Good Food and Bad Boyfriends so much when I read it and, despite the fact that it wasn't vegan, it taught me how to make good, simple pasta and inspired me to make a lot of my own recipes. I love recipes (and I've been lately thinking about making my way through Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook one recipe at a time Julie & Julia style) but I've been cooking long enough now to know what goes with what... and I want to create my own recipes! So I thought I would enjoy this book a lot more because it would give me the chance to tweek the recipes while still reading an enjoyable book. And it got some good reviews so I look forward to reviewing it myself!

We had our start of semester maths luncheon yesterday at Selwyn***. I was a bit nervous about what I was going to get as food but in the end it was actually quite good! They had prepared me my own separate meal and just pulled it out when I was ready. It did have potatoes in it (my close friends will know how much I hate potatoes) but they were thinly cut, nicely cooked and seasoned wonderfully so it turned out to be quite a nice lunch.

Tonight is one of the few MCR**** dinners and apparently this is the yummiest of the dinners you get so I'm hoping for something good. I will laugh very hard if they just give me what they served me yesterday.

Wish me luck and I'll let you know how it goes!

* There is actually a couple living in the roof although we aren't sure how exactly they do it as our ceilings are very high and there doesn't seem to be much space for anything but crawling!
** Note: Don't buy £1 chopping boards from Poundland (see picture right & click on it to get a closer view of our new kitchen!).
*** Selwyn is the college I belong to at Cambridge. The system here is weird and you have to join a college to be admitted to the university. I joined Selwyn because it's half way between the city centre and the Cavendish lab where I work and because it's less touristy than the others. The purpose of the college system is networking. And it works! I've met lots of people although mainly from the sciences.
**** MCR = Middle Combination Room = grad students of the college.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Choc Chip Cookies

I've mentioned them before but it just occurred to me, as I went to find the recipe on this blog (as the cookbook it comes out of is somewhere in a box on a boat on a very large ocean), that I've never posted the recipe on here. So here it is: the yummiest choc chip cookies I've ever tasted.

Choc Chip Cookies 
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

2 1/4 cups plain flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of vegan butter**
3/4 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 tsp vanilla extract
egg replacer for 3 eggs (inc water)***
1 cup semi sweet choc chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)**** 
Preheat oven to 190C. Whip the egg replacer until thick and creamy in a small bowl. Whip together sugars and butter in another bowl with vanilla extract. Add egg replacer mixture. Mix flour, salt and baking soda in another bowl and then add to the wet mixture. Once it is combined and nicely moist add the choc chips and nuts (if using). Spoon onto lightly greased baking trays and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Be careful once you take them out of the oven to cool and are transferring them to a wire rack: the melted chocolate can be quite hot.
  • The dough is quite tough to handle, especially once you've put the chips and nuts in. At the moment I'm making do but once my mix master gets here it will be doing this heavy work.
  • The cooking time really depends on your oven. My old oven use to take 20 minutes and this one takes 10.  The cookies don't go too golden so don't be deceived but they should develop some colour.
  • Everytime I've cooked these they have come out a different shape. Depending on what type of butter I use normally determines if the cookies will spread a lot or not (Nuttelex = spreading!). Also, if your oven is too hot they will spread and if it is not hot enough they won't.
  • Practise makes perfect: use your normal oven with the ingredients you typically use and practise, practise, practise!
* Wholemeal (wholewheat) flour also works well and is much better for you I am sure! 
** Yeah, this is a lot of butter. Don't eat all of the cookies and blame me for weight gain! Also, see notes above about effects of different butter.
*** I'm just using flaxseed now (1 egg = 1 tablespoon flax seed with 3 tablespoons water). In Australia I was using Orgran No Egg and I think in the US Ener-G Egg Replacer is the popular option. See the boxes for equivalence. Just be careful because the flaxseed uses more water than the others so you might need to add a tiny bit more flour to compensate. The dough should be quite wet and sticky but you don't want it too sloppy.
**** I use walnuts although have used peanuts successfully with this recipe in the past.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dessert? Um... sure, I made dessert...

I cooked a delicious, creamy pasta the other night (the basil was dying on our kitchen window (I have a theory it's because the sun never appears in England) and I had to use it up) but we only had our camping saucepan and our small frypan we bought from Sainsbury's so the portion size was a little smaller than usual. So Geoff was still hungry after the pasta and asked for dessert; a dessert that I had not prepared.

I used to make a banana split at home with bananas, soy ice cream, soy cream, Cointreau and nuts. We didn't have any Cointreau, though, and often that dessert is a little rich for me. So I threw together this delicious dessert with some items that everyone should have lying around.

No-Bake Tropical Custard Crunch

Serves 2

1 cup custard
1 peach
1 banana
2 tbsp honey*
1 ginger biscuit**
1 tsp cinnamon
vegan ice cream***

Halve the custard and pour 1/2 cup into the bottom of two dessert bowls (i.e 1/4 cup in each). Halve the banana length ways and place one half in each bowl. Slice the peach into sections, removing the seed, and arrange in bowls evenly.

Scoop out some ice cream into each bowl (I put two scoops in each but do whatever you like!) and then drizle the remaining custard and honey over the dish.

Crush the biscuit up (I normally do this with the back of a spoon on a dry chopping board) and sprinkle it and the cinnamon on top. Enjoy!

  • You could heat the custard so that you get a lovely contrast between the hot custard and cold ice cream (think warm apple crumble and ice cream... mmm!)
  • The peach and banana could easily be replace by other fruits. I fully promote the use of seasonal fruits.
* I remain okay with eating honey. I can't seem to find any evidence that insects feel pain and the extraction of honey, as long as it is done responsibly, does not appear to have any serious effects on the bees. However, I still completely understand other people's apprehensions and the honey in this recipe can easily be replace with maple syrup, rice honey, agave nectar or any other viscous, sweet substance.

** The ginger biscuits here in the UK are vegan. That's not so in Australia. You could just replace it with any sweet biscuit but the ginger adds a nice flavour.

*** We didn't actually use soy ice cream. We used Tofutti's Mango and Passionfruit ice cream which tastes nothing like a sorbet or an ice cream but I still like it (it's almost like bad supermarket gelato). Since then we have discovered the absolutely amazing Swedish Glace which tastes like really well made real ice cream! But if you are in Australia you might be stuck with So Good. Sorry!