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, November 30, 2010

Oriental Ratatouille

Once again adapted from Virtually Vegetarian this is quick and easy and delicious.

Oriental Ratatouille

1 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 inch ginger root, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
50g mooli*, diced
1 small aubergine, diced (small)
200g plum/egg tomatoes, diced
400g can chopped/whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
10 basil leaves

Heat oils in a pan and simmer garlic and ginger until they release their aromas. Add all the vegetables excluding the tomatoes and saute on a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and sugar and cook for another half a minute. The vegetables should not be brown and should be crispy. Season to taste and add basil. Transfer to another dish to let it cool.**

* See previous post about this.
** This will stop it from continuing cooking in the pan and being overcooked.

Sichuan Barbecued Aubergine Rolls with Papaya and Cucumber

Virtually Vegetarian is fast becoming my new favourite cook book despite the fact that it is neither vegetarian or vegan. These little starters/entrees are so full of flavour!

Sichuan Barbecued Aubergine* Rolls with Papaya and Cucumber

Note: Advance preparation required.

3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar**
1 tbsp kecap manis***
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp sesame oil
salt & pepper
2 medium aubergines, cut lengthways into thin slices
1 small green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 inch ginger root, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 papaya, peeled & deseeded and cut into small dice
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice

Mix together vinegar, agave nectar and oils and season. Marinate the aubergine slices in the mixture overnight.

Remove the slices from the marinade and cook on a barbecue for 2-3 mins on each side****. Slices should be tender and golden. Return them to marinade to cool.

In a bowl mix together the chilli, sesame seeds, ginger, herbs, papaya and cucumber and spoon in a little of the marinade. Season to taste.

Take an aubergine slice and put 1-2 teaspoons of the papaya mixture on one end (the fatter end is easier). Roll it up and place on a dish. Repeat for each of the slices.

* Yes, I call it aubergine now. I have to practise for the morons at Tesco who can't recognise the vegetable by sight.
** Or honey if you hate bees.
*** Sweet Indonesian soy sauce. I spoke about it before here.
**** Due to the fact that it is minus eleven thousand outside and we don't own a barbecue I just put them under our grill for 5 mins on each side.

Oriental Black Risotto with Basmati Rice

This is by far my new favourite dish. It's a bit involved but well worth it. Very delicious! This is adapted from Virtually Vegetarian.

Oriental Black Risotto with Basmati Rice


50g vegan butter
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger root, finely chopped
250g basmati rice
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 cups mushroom stock*
salt & pepper
2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Vegetable Garnish

4 tbsp sesame oil
50g vegan butter
14 shiitake mushrooms, halved
1/2 inch ginger root, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/4 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 green pepper, thinly sliced
15g mooli (daikon raddish), grated*
2 spring onions, finely chopped
16 coriander leaves


Heat butter in a saucepan and add onion/shallot, garlic, ginger and cook for 1 min. Do not brown. The add rice and try to coat the grains with the melted butter. Then add five-spice. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Season to taste and simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring frequently. Rice should be al dente and most of the stock should evaporate. 

Once you have cooked the risotto, add the soy sauce.

Vegetable Garnish

While the rice is cooking heat 1 tbsp of the sesame oil and 15g of the butter in a wok or frying pan. Saute the mushrooms until tender. Remove the mushrooms, place on a plate with a paper towel over them and keep them somewhere warm.
Heat the rest of the oil and butter in the same pan and stir in ginger and garlic. Leave for a few minutes then add the rest of the vegetables. You want the vegetables to be crisp so don't overcook. Season.

Spoon the risotto into bowls and garnish with the vegetables, mushrooms and coriander leaves.

* I made my own and will post the recipe soon.
** I'd never seen it before I came to England so I don't think you'll be able to get it in Australia. It doesn't add much to the dish anyway and could easily be left out.

Last Day of Vegan MoFo

It's sadly the last day of Vegan Month of Food. Our little household has tried some great new recipes so we think it was well worth it although I'll be glad now that the pace of blogging is calmer.

I'll now post some of my favourite recipes from this month. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pizza Pizza!

I'm well aware that I've been slack with the posting (I can rarely begin something without finishing it all in one go so I accidentally read all 10 Southern Vampire Mystery novels in less than two weeks despite the fact that Charlaine Harris writes like an 11-year-old (one with a vivid sexual imagination) and then discovered Generation Kill which I almost watched in one sitting). With only two more days of Vegan MoFo to go I need to get motivated.

Vegan MoFo has been great. We have tried out a lot of new recipes despite the fact that I'm glued to my work most of the day. Geoff has been great: he picks out the recipes, does all the shopping, cleans the kitchen and puts out all of the ingredients and utensils (last night he even marinated eggplant for tonight; I don't even know what we are cooking tonight). He even stirs. All I do is chop and be bossy. So a lot of credit needs to go to Geoff. Without him I wouldn't have done Vegan Mofo.

There are a couple of recipes that he picked out recently that were fantastic but I'll save them so the next few days as Vegan MoFo wraps up.

One of the recipes we do use a lot is pizza dough. I couldn't find vegan pizza bases here in Cambridge that didn't have palm oil in them (and palm oil is very bad!) so I like to make my own.

I've posted about the recipe here before but the recipe was a bit dodgy. So this is my better version.

Pizza Dough

7g sachet dry yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp olive oil

Combine water, yeast, sugar and salt in jug. Whisk to dissolve. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in a warm place for 5 mins or until you see bubbles on the surface. Add oil to the mixture.

Sift flour into a bowl. Add yeast mixture to it. Mix to form a soft dough. At first the dough should look a little too dry but it will eventually start sticking as you mix more. I normally do it with my hands. If you are really sure it is not wet enough just add some water but do it slowly and carefully. Sticking dough is very hard to work with especially after it had risen.

Turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes until elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl & cover with plastic wrap. Stand in warm place for 25-30 minutes or until dough has doubled size.

Use fist to punch dough down. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Top with whatever you like and bake for 10-15 minutes.
The topping on the pizza; ready to go.

Pre-oven. I like to add leeks because they make it taste hearty.
This one has vegan cheese on it but I rarely use it since I don't like the taste.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin & Spinach Red Lentil Curry

There's really not much you can do to make curry look good in a photo. Nor do I have a specific recipe for cooking this curry. It goes a little something like:

Pumpkin & Spinach Red Lentil Curry

1 tbsp oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups red lentils, washed
3 cups chopped pumpkin
1 litre vegetable stock
200g spinach leaves

1 tbsp madras curry powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp parprika
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cinammon

 Heat the oil in a pot and add garlic, onion & spices. Fry until the onion softens and the spices release their aromas. Add the pumpkin and fry in the spices. The add lentils and stock and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced so that it looks like curry and not soup (this could take a while). Add the spinach when it has the desired look and stir through until it is limp. Then either blend a few ladelfuls in a blender or using a stick blender do it in the pot.

Serve with rice.

* This is quite a conservative estimate. I probably put a lot more in. I don't own any measures though!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

I have fond memories of the magic that is self-saucing chocolate pudding from when I was a kid. However, my memories consist of me helping mum empty the packet mix into a microwavable bowl and cooking the pudding in the microwave.

I actually have nightmares about baking in the microwave.

Despite this I was always amazed at how the pudding rose above the sauce and it was always delicious (cf to the rest of Mum's cooking) despite its shocking origins.

I've been wanting to make one for a while but it just never happens. However, my friend Maree was visiting me on her 12 month world tour and I decided to make it for dessert (since I don't have any cake tins yet and it was the only thing I could think of to cook in a Pyrex dish with the ingredients I had). So here it is!

 Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

1 cup of flour
3 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
80g butter melted
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tbsp ground flax seed w/ 3 tbsp water*

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup boiling water

For the pudding mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the flaxseed with the water until it is thick and creamy and add the rest of the wet ingredients. Then very slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients stirring as you add. Pour into an oven safe dish (I used a round Pyrex dish) and smooth the top.

For the sauce mix the two dry ingredients together and then sprinkle over the top of the pudding mix in the dish. Then very slowly pour the boiling water on top of the pudding as well. It's best to use a spoon to do this so that the sugar mixture isn't too disturbed and you get an even sauce.

Put the Pyrex dish onto a tray (to collecting spilling liquids in the oven).

Bake for 40 minutes and serve immediately with soy ice cream!

* Or other 1 egg equivalent.

Green Risotto with Fresh Herbs

This is another recipe from Virtually Vegetarian. I've veganised it and it tastes great! Just make sure when you cook it you follow the recipe very closely. There are small details that make sure the risotto turns out as it should.

The original recipe uses herb juice and not herbs. However, not having something small enough to make herb juice I just used chopped herbs (although it was quite obvious that I should have spent more time chopping them finer). However, the smaller you can get the herbs the better so I would suggest that if you have a mortar and pestle that you squish the fresh herbs into a juice. Alternatively, you could blend the final bit of butter and the herbs together in a blender or food processor to get the smaller bits of herbs.

Green Risotto with Fresh Herbs

600ml vegetable stock
100g unsalted vegan butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
250g Aborio rice
90ml white wine
125g mixed herbs*
salt and pepper
Bring stock to the boil in a saucepan and keep it over a low heat to be added to the risotto.

Melt 40g of the butter in a pan and add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender. Add the rice and mix to coat it with the butter so it's nice and shiny. The add the until and cook until the wine has reduced its volume by half. Then add a ladelful of stock and stir until it is completely absorbed by the rice. Keep adding the stock like this (ladelful, stir, absorb, ladelful, stir, absorb etc) until it is all gone. This will take a while (1/2 hour).

The risotto should be loose but not sloppy and the rice should be tender but still had bite. If it becomes this before you run out of stock then don't add anymore. If it is still not at this point after you've run out of stock then just add ladelfuls of boiling water.

Once the rice is cooked add in the remaining butter and herbs and season to taste. 

* Parsley and basil were my choice. The recipe also suggests adding chevril to the mix. I have no idea what chevril is. See my comments at the start of the post about how to prepare the herbs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soy-Glazed Linguine with Ginger and Tofu

Cambridge is somewhat of a cultural odd pot. The town definitely basks in that British traditionalism that the university exudes in great loads but it can always surprise you.

When I was fifteen I visited New Caledonia with my French class. New Caledonia is a little lax on the alcohol (and a bunch of other) laws and being fifteen and from a small country town I, and the rest of the French class, went a little crazy. There was alcohol, French men (who I now have a rather low opinion of seeing as they were chasing after fifteen year olds!) and even smoking. I detest smoking but I'm also not fond of people disliking things they haven't tried (unless it's heroin or has moral implications like, say, the flesh of an animal).

I had a point here.

There were these drinks called Desperados there (a premixed beer and tequila drink) and we drank them by the gallon. When I returned to Australia I tried to find them again (although that was a little difficult until I was 18) but never succeeded. All my travels in France (and the rest of Europe), my travels in Canada and the US have never discovered these little bottles of beer/tequila gold.

The thought of beer and tequila now makes me want to vomit so I gave up my quest a little while ago. However, Geoff and I walked to Mill Road the other day in search of rice paper to make rice paper rolls (Mill Road houses most of Cambridge's Asian grocers) and we spotted a bottle shop, popped in to look at the wine and there, sitting in a small little fridge, were Desperados.

Of course I had a small girly fit.

The guy behind the counter said: "That's Cambridge for you. You never know what you'll find."

I thought he was being a bit sentimental and gave him my awkward I-think-you-are-a-giant-weirdo-so-please-shut-up-now smile.

However, it turned out to be very true.

An example of this weird Cambridge culture happened on Saturday. Geoff and I were walking back to our bikes with groceries and saw some people coming out of a church (there are many old, old, old churches here). Geoff suddenly walked into the church demanding I follow.

I don't know if I've told my readers this before but Geoff has a special power. He has special book detecting skills.

The entire church was full of second hand books. They were selling them at pretty good prices too! My most precious find was a book called Virtually Vegetarian. It cost me £1.

It's an interesting book. It's written by a British chef called Paul Gayler and it consists of a bunch of vegetarian recipes that use gelatin and chicken stock (hence the virtual bit) with meat additions suggested on most recipes. So it's not really a vegan cook book at all but we've discovered that most of it can be veganised and that this chef gives great instructions and has some quirky tastes that seem to work!

So here is the first veganised recipe we made from it. It tasted great too!

Soy-Glazed Linguine with Ginger and Tofu

450g linguine
1 tbsp vegan butter
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
25g fresh ginger, finely shredded
1 carrot, finely grated
2 spring onions, finely shredded
75g (about 7) shiitake mushrooms, shredded
2 bok choi heads, shredded
1 yellow pepper, finely shredded
2 tbsp dry white wine*
4 tbsp ketjap manis**
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar***
90ml vegetable stock
100g firm tofu, cubed
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
2 red chillies, deseeded and cut into thin rings****

Okay. First of all, don't freak out about all the shredding. I just basically grated everything. I'm sure a food processor would be easier but make sure you keep the ginger and garlic separate from everything else. Also, everything happens quickly so have everything prepped before.

Cook the linguine until al dente. Drain well and keep aside and warm.

Heat the butter and oil in a pan with the garlic and ginger for 1 min over moderate heat. The stir in the carrot, spring onions, mushrooms, bok choi and yellow pepper and stir for another minute.

Add the wine, ketjap manis and vinegar and bring to the boil. Once it has boiled cook it for a further 2 minutes. Add vege stock and cook until it is "light and syrupy". The more finely your shredding the syrupier***** the sauce.

This is my version of  "light and syrupy". It looks soft and mushy to me.

Add the drained linguine to the sauce and stir. I would suggest doing this in small parts since the pasta will stick together and you want to get every strand covered in a nice yummy glaze.

Stir in the tofu and garnish with coriander and chilli. Don't neglect this step; the coriander really makes the dish.

* Or dry sherry.

** This is a sweeter, thicker Indonesian soy sauce. You could get it in supermarkets in Australia (sometimes spelled kecap manis). I just made my own with agave nectar and soy sauce. Honey and soy sauce or even sweet chili sauce and soy sauce would also work.

*** If you don't have some you can get it at supermarkets. And it comes in handy with a lot of Asian dishes so don't be afraid to buy some.

**** Please deseed them and cut them into rings and don't put them in the sauce. They are garnish. My darling boyfriend put three extra hot chillies, seeds and all, into the sauce and my entire mouth went numb.

***** Not a word.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vegan MoFo Fail

My cousin had her baby a few hours ago (she's the first great grandchild! They haven't named her yet which is of no consequence to me since I've been calling her Squishy for some months now and don't plan on adapting to whatever name they give her) and we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate. And now I'm quite drunk. So no post tonight. We had strongonoff again anyway. I'll post tomorrow, promise!

Potage Parmentier

I really didn't like Julie & Julia. The movie was fantastic (and was the inspiration for this blog!) but the book paled in comparison. I enjoyed the book but often cringed at the amoral, apathetic yet sometimes psychotic view of the author.

Yes, she made fun of vegans.

But that's not why I didn't like it.

One of the scences I particularly did not like was where she had to get marrow out of the bone of a cow leg. I have no problem with that if she's made the decision to eat meat. However, she goes on to explain how her and her husband have a discussion about buying a country house and a cow and lovingly taking care of it as penance for the marrow extraction. Oh, you feel guilty? Now?

It really highlighted to me that it's not until people are elbow deep in a splintered shin bone that they actually realise that meat comes from an animal. So she felt bad about that cow. But the hundreds of other cows she slaughtered that year don't deserve a single thought. And the lobsters she boiled alive were fine. And the veal comes from the butcher... not the calf.

And the amoral, contradicting opinions about her married life and her friends' love lives drove me nuts.

Her second book is about how she becomes a butcher and cheats on her husband. It honestly made me wonder if she cheated on her husband just so she could write her second book. At any rate I won't be reading it.

However, I did enjoy the bits where she talks about food (the bits without her pathetic attempt at moralising). The opening shopping sequence, as she buys potatoes and leeks for Potage Parmentier without realising it, was lovely. And it made me want to make Potage Parmentier!

So, after all that anger vented toward Julie Powell here is my vegan version of her first blog entry.

Potage Parmentier

500g potatoes, diced
3 cups sliced leeks
2 litres (8 cups) water
1 tbs salt
3 tbs vegan butter
Add the potatoes, leeks, salt and water to a soup pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Blend the soup in a blender (or in the pot if you have an awesome stick blender like mine!). The blending is important. It has to be smooth. Use a sieve if you have to. 

Stir in butter before serving. 


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roasting Tin Muffin Cake

Geoff hasn't been feeling well so I had the brilliant idea to get up this morning, make him some Ginger and Lemon muffins and a coffee from our wonderful espresso machine, and surprise him with breakfast when he woke up. Now, most of my friends will know that being that romantic (or even just nice) is quite unusual for me but Geoff has been so good at looking after the household duties while I'm at the lab that I thought I should be nice for at least a morning.

However, like always, things didn't go according to plan. Instead of nice warm muffins and fresh coffee Geoff woke up to my voice:

"Geoff, you need to get up. I made muffins for you only to realise we don't own a muffin tin yet. So you need to get up and go get me one."

This is my version of nice.

Poor Geoff.

In the end I couldn't remember if we have muffin tins coming over by ship from Australia or not and since we have limited space (because in the UK your flat is 1/4 the size for twice the price) doubling up isn't such a good idea. The next best thing I had was a roasting pan so I made the "muffins" in that.

They always turn out delicious and this time was no exception. However, there is just something nice about having a warm muffin in your hand and taking that first bite into it and watching the steam billow out. A flat, rectangular muffin with a depth of about 2cm is not exactly the same.

Since our stuff won't be arriving by ship until December I won't be baking any muffins for Vegan MoFo. However, if you are lucky enough to have a muffin tin at your disposal I would highly recommend making these delicious little gems.

There will be no photo of the muffin cake. I am much too ashamed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scrambled Tofu 2.0

When we were living in Brisbane scrambled tofu used to be one of our favourite brunch meals on sunny Sunday mornings with tea and coffee. Normally just before or after walking the dog.

England is not so sunny and we miss our puppy but we are still enjoying our scrambled tofu vegie mash. Especially when it's wet and cold and rainy outside it's becoming a yummy lunch or dinner.

It's not really something I have a recipe for. I just fry up some onion and garlic in a small bit of oil and then add whatever vegies I have lying around (mushrooms and spinach always make it in but my new favourite edition is sliced leeks) and then add the tofu by crumbling the block with my hands over the pan to get the scrambled look. And I normally add turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, paprika and cumin and those herbs give it a beautiful aroma, gorgeous colour and delicious taste.

The texture and taste is not the same as the recipe I posted a while ago (that one feels and tastes more like scrambled eggs) but I prefer it.

I also saw that Susan V on FatFree Vegan Kitchen had a similar post recently and mentioned how lovely the meal is on an autumn night. I envy that her autumn is the south of the US would be a lot warmer than mine but I share the sentiment about scrambled tofu!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday: Bangers and Mash

Some of my dear friends will be falling off their chairs when they see this post. Yes, it's true, I hate potato. It's also true that, since I now live in England, every meal is supposed to contain potato. It's also a bit hard to avoid hot, warm comforting things like Bangers and Mash when the weather is miserable all the time. So I've succumbed. A little.

Bangers and Mash 1.0

Bangers and Mash 2.0

I'm not about to give a recipe from mashed potato since... well... even my mother can make mashed potato. You will, however, notice that my mashed potato seems to be a little on the orange side. That's because I make it with half potato, half sweet potato and then mash it, stick in some soy milk and a tablespoon or so or vegan butter, salt and pepper and mash again. Easy peasy.

Version 1.0 is served with onion, leek and sliced mushrooms fried in a pan with a bit of oil. Version 2.0 is served with sliced onion rings that were fried with a bit of oil and then my Garlic & Chili Broccoli except I replaced the nuts with some sliced mushrooms. Yummy and easy.

Of course it's all topped off with some HP. Because we live in England now.

Tuesday: Mexican!

Where Mexican! = not really Mexican at all.

Whatever spicy beans in a tomato sauce with tortilla and salad and vegan guacamole is... that's what I made.

I've posted before about my recipe for the beans. It's basically the same recipe except with more garlic, red onion instead of brown onion, one can of kidney beans and one can of black beans (all the water drained), can of crushed tomatoes and paprika added to the spice mix. I also added in some zucchini because I had some left over. It's an easy recipe and it's easy to change and it still tastes yummy.

Just watch out and make sure your tortillas (which I always buy at the store) are vegan!

I am an unwrapped tortilla.

I am a wrapped tortilla.

Monday: Mushroom & Tofu Strogonoff

I originally got the idea from this quirky blog. I think strogonoff is traditionally served on rice (and sans tofu) but I remember my mother making it with pasta when I was younger (I may have implanted that memory because Mum can't cook). But it was delicious! The only suggestions I'd make is to watch the salt levels in the vegie stock. You don't want it to be too salty.

Mushroom & Tofu Strogonoff

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
300-500g tofu pieces*
4 large field mushrooms, chopped**
500ml/2 cups liquid vegetable stock
250ml soy cream
1/2 cup wine***

Heat the oil in the pan and fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes. When they are translucent add the mushrooms and tofu pieces and stir for a further few minutes. When the mushrooms begin to leak their juices (that's a bit sexy) pour in the stock and wine. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for a good while (10-20 min) until the mushrooms and tofu are sitting in the sauce and not drowning in it. Then stir in the cream and heat through. Don't boil the cream. Boiled cream = bad. But make sure the flavours have been stirred through the cream and the cream is nearly at boiling point (kind of like what you would do for coconut milk in a green curry).

Serve on top of pasta (spaghetti or fettuccine) or rice.

* I used pre-seasoned tofu for this recipe but it threw the salt balance way off. Perhaps seitan would be better but I can never get my hands on any.
** I like field mushrooms but get whatever you want. 4 big handfuls will do.
*** I think normal recipes use white but we are red wine drinkers and never have any white around so I used red and it didn't make that much of a difference with the colour.

Sick Little Vegan MoFo

Surely, being US-based, they realised that MoFo was already in use...

Anyway, I've been sick. I am still kind of sick but since I had to return to the lab I felt I should return to the blog.

I still needed to eat while I was sick so I was still cooking... I was just too exhausted each day to blog. I still am quite exhausted (I constantly feel like I've just been working out and have muscle fatigue despite the fact that I have not) but Geoff has not yet cleaned up last night's dinner so I have some spare time before the kitchen is ready for use.

So I shall now bombard you with this week's Vegan MoFo adventures.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Camden Town

No post yesterday. Sorry. I was buggered (note: the English have another meaing for that word!) from our trip down to London to catch up with my Trek friends. More on that later.

Camden Town is host of the famous Camden Market and seems to be buzzing with "alternative" things. The streets are lined with stores selling Doc Martens, New Rocks and "vintage" clothing. Every second store seemed to sell cheap Chinese-made clothing or was host to a tattoo and piercing parlour. There were a few cool shops here and there but most of it was goddamn tacky and the people there weren't far from the same.

See what the Cambridge Bubble does to you? Pretentious twat indeed.

I did find a delicious little stall in the Stables part of the Camden Market. I can't remember the name of it (I was hoping I could find it on the internet but alas not) but it was a vegetarian Ethiopian stall and everything was vegan. I like it when vegan places don't advertise that they are vegan as to not scare people away. Because veganism is a scary, scary disease.

I didn't take any photos of the food which I am now very sorry about. But some of my friends had the same as me and said there is a much better Ethiopian restaurant in Kentish Town. I shall have to track it down.

I also spotted inSpiral and noted that the next time I venture into the Camden Market I shall pay a visit. It looked very promising.

I went down to London to meet up with some friends I met back in 2005 when I was travelling solo around the USA. For some strange reason, despite our rather different backgrounds and political views, whenever we get together we have an amazing time. Perhaps it's because we only see each other every year or so or because we all shared somewhat of a memorable experience and add to that each time we meet up. Whatever it is it works.

We spent the afternoon and then the early evening at The Lock Tavern drinking many, many pints. My throat was hoarse from yelling over the noise and my cheeks hurt from laughing so much. I drank some Fruli, which is a Belgian Strawberry beer. I have no idea if it is vegan or not and could not find any information about it. If someone finds it is not I promise never to drink it again.

Friday, November 5, 2010


So I've posted the recipe to these delicious goodies on this blog before (see Chocolate Brownies post) but I wanted to talk about it again because a) it's Vegan MoFo and the other thing I cooked last night is being saved up for an extra special post sometime in the future and b) I think these ones look better than the last I made. These were delicious and gooey and oh so yummy.

I have heard a lot of people talk about if they are in the cakey or the fudgey brownie camp. I like this recipe because you can use the same recipe to please people in both camps depending on how long you leave it in the oven. I have also found that the less chocolate chips I use the less gooey it is.

BTW Happy Bonfire Night to those in the UK. I did not partake of the activities because I decided to go to a maths lecture instead. However, except for the fact that I lost my phone in the rain somewhere between home and the CMS, it was well worth it. If you know any maths and ever get the opportunity to see Bela Bollobas speak you should definitely go if only to boggle at the things that he finds "trivial" (such as, oh let's say, this trivial little thing).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ripe From Around Here

Some of the lovely gals from UQ gave me this book as a going away present when I recently left Australia. I was a little excited when I got it because I was very much looking forward to getting northern hemisphere weather and local produce when I arrived in England. I had, however, forgotten all about the benefit of the EU and find it a bit hard to refuse bananas from Portugal simply because they are "imported" when the distance between here and Portugal would be like Brisbane to Melbourne.

Yes, I'm exaggerating.

I also found it quite hilarious that the first recipe I decided to make (simply because it was listed under her fall/autumn recipes) involved shiitake mushrooms and the only ones Geoff could find were £2 for 120g and were imported from China.

For those of you geographically challenged like myself... China is a long long way away.

Anyway, I couldn't very well change my mind since Geoff had already done the groceries and we had an hour before we had to go bowling. Yes, we computational scientists like to bowl after work.

So I made two recipes from the book to make a whole dinner. Only neither were particularly satisfying (although I made up for that with two pints of cider while bowling). They looked great but the delicate taste of the mushrooms in the salad was drowned out by the vinegar and the sweet potato... well, it tasted just fine but it just wasn't very satisfying.

If I made these dishes again they'd either be together as an entree or as sides as part of a much bigger meal. And I'd significantly reduce the amount of vinegar. And since the shiitake don't really add any flavour to the meal that isn't drowned out I think I'd chuck in some heartier mushrooms and a few more of them. So below is my adapted recipe for these dishes.

I want to make a few more recipes from the book before recommending it (or otherwise). However, I do think that since vegans make up such a small part of the population and that getting any book, let alone a vegan cook book, published is a mammoth effort ( more likely a miracle) we vegans should go out and buy as many cook books as we can afford. And what better month to do it in than Vegan MoFo!

Anyway, below are my adaptations of the two recipes I used in the book. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato in Jacket

Serves 2

Preheat oven to 200C. Scrub sweet potato and cut out any blemishes (if it's anything like the poor vegetables in my kitchen they'll probably be growing some sort of mould/arm/attitude). Prick the sweet potato evenly all over and place on a baking tray. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until soft. Slice down the middle and serve with butter. (Next time I'm going to make my own herb butter and melt it on top).

Warm Spinach and Mushroom Salad

Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
200g spinach leaves
100g (a dozen) mushrooms*
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped nuts**
salt and pepper

Toast the nuts on an unoiled hot pan. Set nuts aside.
Heat the oil in the same pan and put in garlic, onion and mushrooms. Stir for several minutes until mushrooms and onion are soft. Meanwhile put the spinach in a bowl and stir through the vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the onion mix and then the nuts. Stir through until the heat from the onion mix begins to wilt the spinach leaves and serve.

* Shiitake, if it pleases you.
** I used walnuts but pine nuts would give it more flavour or slivered almonds or pecans would also work.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Honey" Soy Sauce with Chili

Today is going to be a stupidly busy day so I'm getting in early with my post for Vegan MoFo. If you've seen the picture, don't fear, I'm not going to give a step by step guide to making stir fry. Stir fry is the delicious lazy person meal and everyone should already know how to cook it. What I do want to talk about is sauce.

When I first became a vegan back when I was 15 I ate stir fry every night for dinner. Worst still it was without tofu and only with soy sauce as a dressing. This was a direct result of the fact that my mother can not cook and I was a teenager so didn't really know much about cooking either. Long story short: I ended up loathing stir fry.

Fast forward to my third year at university and I was living with my then boyfriend and he introduced me to all sorts of cool stuff like tofu and chili and sweat peas and baby corn. And he used to take me to a lot of restaurants in Chinatown where I started getting the idea that stir fry != soy sauce. (Yes, I just made a C joke. Someone kill me.)

Australia, and even the UK, are quite good at providing lots of different sauces for your stir fries. However, considering the very basic ingredients that they are made from, they are a little overpriced.

One of my favourite flavours is honey soy with chili. Of course actual honey is not very vegan of me (although some of you will know my fuzzy honey moral lines) so here's an alternative I use a lot.

"Honey" Soy Sauce with Chili

1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of sweet chili sauce*
1 tsp agave nectar**
1 tsp cornflour

Add the first three ingredients together and mix thoroughly. Then add the cornflour making sure you stir all the lumps out. Add to your stir fry!

* You can, of course, make your own sweet chili sauce and I have done this before. However, most people should just have a bottle of it sitting in a cupboard so it's much easier to use that.
** Agave nectar is easy to get and quite cheap here in the UK. This is not the case in Australia although you can get it from health food stores for about $10. I only use it in this recipe because the sweet chili sauce is not that sweet here (and rather spicy!) so you could leave it out if you think the sauce is sweet enough or replace it with honey, rice honey or even golden syrup.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Be a Cambridge Vegan IV

 I promised a follow up to my formal dining experiences at my college, Selwyn, here at Cambridge. We've been to a few dinners since then so I've collected a nice sample of opinions about the food. Please feel free to ignore this post if you don't like bitter, angry women and wasting your time.

MCR Dinner

This was my first experience at a formal dinner here at Cambridge and I was a tad shocked. Although a fair chunk of the graduate students here are international students like myself a lot of them are true Cambridge scholars: they came here for undergraduate, left the 'Cambridge Bubble' on holidays only and came back for graduate studies. These are the ones to watch.

Somehow, and I am guessing it's through osmosis or magic, all of the knowledge of drinking games passes on to the new students (we are called, to my horror, "Freshers") and suddenly everyone around you is ridiculously drunk and you are having trouble not punching the American guy across the table from you as he name drops some distant relative from some ivy league school in the US. a) Why the hell would I know about someone not even remotely in my field? b) You are at Cambridge. Yes, the university that was ranked most like Harvard... beating Harvard.

Yes, yes. I'll get to the food when I've vented.

We were without wine that night (we weren't aware you could take wine in with you) and so we had to remain horrified in our sobriety. But the food was okay. They gave me a mushroom stack which was really nice but not exactly filling. There was some sort of soup for starters. Beetroot and something? It was okay. And for dessert I was served fruit salad. Cut up the way they do in pre-school.

So I sound bitter but I was quite happy with my meal. Being vegan means you tend to just be overwhelmed when you are able to eat something let alone have a special meal cooked for you.

Formal Hall

Formal Hall happens twice a week at our college. It's more formal than the MCR Dinner (yes, that's right, more formal than having to wear a suit and tie (or the "women's equaivalent" as they so delicately put it) and your gown to dinner). It is also open to all students and is mostly frequented by undergraduates so we were a little worried about the drinking games.

However, we need not have worried because it turns out that the undergraduates of Cambridge are actually quite well behaved. Yes, there was some "pennying" (people drop pennies into other people's drinks and they have to drink it all at once) and some passing of the dinner mints (this is done mouth to mouth and earns you expulsion from the dinner because the mints are supposed to accompany the port, chaps, and are not for fun) but the presence of the fellows seemed to keep things a little tamer.

We had wine this time and it was truly awful. And the port! I forgot to mention the port! Each meal has a starter then a main course then a dessert then a cheese platter with coffee and port and after dinner mints. And the port tastes like fermented sultanas and methylated spirits. One of these days I'm going to go to a Trinity or King's dinner and see if the port tastes better in the wealthy colleges.

Anyway, my point was... we drank a fair bit too. It made the pennying tolerable and the Latin chanting (there is a lot of Latin chanting going on... which they practise to make sure they get the pronounciation right) hilarious.

The food this time was a bit of a problem. Firstly the waiter told me that the carrot soup was vegan. Then when she went to get my main course she told me that they had not prepared any vegan food because the catering lady had forgotten to tell them. Guess the carrot soup was not vegan after all.

The chefs were pretty good, though, and threw together some spiced beans in a tomato sauce with some polenta. It wasn't fantastic but at least I was fed and they seemed to have done a better job on the protein considerations this time.

Dessert was fruit salad. Cut up the way they do in pre-school.

Matriculation Dinner

Geoff wasn't invited. Matriculating graduate students only.

The wine was free and was plentiful and was actually good! (Up until this point I had assumed England thought that wine should taste like ethanol). And the food! Oh the food!

For starters we had polenta with watercress and some delicious dressing. Then the main course was a tomato stuffed with tofu pieces and nuts and vegetables and served with roasted root vegetables. And potato. There's always bloody potato. And for dessert... fruit! But not the way pre-school does it. It was a lovely pear that had been cooked in something like sugar syrup, white wine, cinnamon and star anise. It was chilled and served whole but sliced so that it made a little star shape on my plate while still sitting up like a pear would. I fell in love with it. But I ate it anyway.

Then we did a bit of musical chairs (there is designated seating except at Formal Halls) and moved to the New SCR for white dessert wines, coffee, cheese platters (of which I did not partake), port and mints. Except everything was actually nice this time!

The dinner was really amazing. The best million course vegan meal I've ever eaten.

So apparently we only get one more of these dinners and that's when we graduate. Except I'll be matriculating again next year and then graduating again three years after that (yes, my hobby is degree collecting) so I am very much looking forward to it.

And now I'll leave you with some images from around our street of this lovely (although a bit chilly and windy tonight!) city. Happy autumn!

Easy Crunchy Nectarine Bake

When I finally did get around to going to the markets on Saturday I was not at all prepared and only ended up with some very large nectarines and some very large field mushrooms. The nectarines, however, were already going bad before I even walked in the door and so last night I had to save what was left of them in this crunchy nectarine bake.

You could, of course, use peaches in this recipe. In fact, you could use it for pretty much any juicy fruit (apples, berries, pears, plums...). I used nectarines because I had them. I also like baking with them because you can leave the skin on and it doesn't ruin the texture.

Easy Crunchy Nectarine Bake

4 large* nectarines (or several smaller ones), deseeded & sliced
1 banana
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup vegan butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Lightly grease or oil an ovenproof dish (like the Pyrex one in the photo below). Mash the banana in the bottom of the dish. Add the nectarine slices and mix through so that the banana is evenly spread throughout.**

In a separate bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together and then add the butter, using your fingertips to make an even crumble. Then sprinkle over the top of the nectarine slices and pat it down lightly with the back of a wooden spoon.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is nice and juicy and the crumble nice and crunchy.

Serve with vegan ice cream.***

* And I mean large. If they aren't bigger than your fist you'll need more than 4.
** If you don't like banana and are bitterly disappointed with the inclusion of it in this dish then I would suggest just throwing a little sugar and flour over the nectarines and mixing it through. This should caramelise and hold together the nectarine pieces without the banana.
***  I am obsessed by the amazing taste of Swedish Glace and am considering permanent residence in the UK because of it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan MoFo

It's Day One of Vegan MoFo... and I ate leftovers for lunch and intend to eat leftovers for dinner. So far I'm doing a fantastic job!

If you don't know what VeganMoFo is click on the logo above! And be prepared for 30 days of non-stop blogging about vegan food!

Now I'm going to go find something to cook tonight so I have something to blog about tomorrow.

This is going to be fun!

Vegan Halloween

Yesterday was my first Halloween. We were supposed to go to a party but the party ended up being cancelled. It was also the first day since daylight savings ended and we were not at all prepared for the lack of sun at 4pm. So we got comfy at home, watched some Skins and I made a nice simple Halloween dinner with some inspiration from Morrisons (the original link to their Halloween treats seems to have died overnight).

Spicy Blood & Guts Soup*

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced**
2 leeks, thinly sliced
 500ml tomato juice
1 can of crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot on a medium high heat. Add the onion and stir for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add the sweet potato, potato and spices and fry for a few minutes. Then add the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 35 minutes.

To make the soup smooth you'll need to either put it in a food processor or blender or get one of the amazing stick blenders that I got for my birthday and you can blend it right in the pot!

Once it's smooth add salt and pepper to taste and serve with the spooky witch finger bread below!
* I had intended this to just be Blood Soup but it didn't quite have the colour (it was the missing beetroot I forgot to get... it needed beetroot for the colour).
** If you have beetroot and want to get the blood colour use a 300g can of chopped beetroot, drained, here instead.

Cheesey Witches' Fingers Bread

300g flour***
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
50 g vegan butter
75g finely grated vegan cheese
1 tbsp flaxseed + 3 tbsp of water (or equivalent)
8 tbsp milk
1/4 capsicum/pepper (yellow or red)

Preheat the oven to 200C and line some trays with baking paper.

Rub the flour (+ baking soda & powder) and butter together with your fingertips until you have something that looks like breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and stir. In a separate bowl beat together the flaxseed mixture and the milk and add it to the dry ingredients to form a dough. Knead the dough a little and then roll it into a ball.

One at a time, pull off pieces of the dough (about the size of a ping pong ball). Roll into a round ball and then roll out into a long finger-length stick. Place on the baking tray and repeat. Once you have rolled them all out pinch two knuckles in each one and then get a sharp knife and make some cuts across each knuckle (take a look at the picture of the cookies below to get the idea).

The final step is to cut the capsicum/pepper up into little triangles for the nails. Then just place them on and stick the fingers in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When they are done, let them cool and serve with the Spicy Blood and Guts Soup!

*** I used wholemeal/wholewheat flour for both the bread and the cookies simply because I ran out of plain flour. I don't think it makes much of a difference except that wholemeal is a bit better for you!

Almond Witches' Fingers Cookies

 3/4 cup vegan butter
1 cup icing/confectioner's sugar
1 tbs flaxseed + 3 tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups flour
2/3 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 dozen blanched almonds

Beat together the sugar and butter. Then add the liquid ingredients. Finally add the dry ingredients to form a dough. Then follow the same instructions for the bread above only this time put a blanched almond for a fingernail. 

These cookies taste great with coffee!