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, December 15, 2011

Vegetable and Lentil Stew with Herb Dumplings

We are off to Denmark next week to spend Christmas with a friend and his family. But before we leave I thought I'd post this yummy winter stew.

My picture does not do this dish the justice it deserves. It's a really delicious, filling dish that's great for cold winter nights. It's based on the recipe for Mushroom Stew with Herb Dumplings in vegan.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and and I'll see you all in the New Year!

Vegetable and Lentil Stew with Herb Dumplings

1 potato, chopped
25 g shiitake mushrooms, halved
125g oyster mushrooms, sliced
600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
200ml of water
125g puy lentils (dried)*
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
125g frozen peas
1 red pepper/capsicum, deseeded and chopped
125g cabbage, chopped
2 heaped tsp cornflour
2 tsp vegan bouillon powder**
2 tsp cocoa
1 tablespoon of molasses***
1 tsp vegemite****
2 tbsp tomato sauce
125ml sherry


1 3/4 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp vegan bouillon powder**
1 tsp chopped sage
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp oil
1/2 cup soya milk

Place the potato, shiitake mushrooms and lentils into large saucepan with stock and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Mix all dumpling ingredients together in bowl. Make 12 balls (this is easier to do between 2 spoons or with 1 spoon and a hand. Two hands get rather sticky).

Add remaining vegetables to stew.

Mix the remaining stew ingredients into a small bowl. Then gradually add this to the stew. Stir constantly until stew thickens.

Sit dumplings on the stew and replace lid. Simmer for another 20 minutes until dumplings are cooked.

* We can never get dried puy lentils so use the canned ones. If you use the canned ones then don't put them in until the end just before you put the dumplings in. Alternatively, you can use red lentils or green lentils (the green ones will need pre-soaking, though, and may take longer to cook).
** If you can't get this, don't worry too much. We actually use this as the vegetable stock so just add a bit extra to make this. You could use dried vegie stock.
*** I use golden syrup instead of molasses. It's not really the same but it does the trick. 
****  Or whatever yeast extract you use.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This recipe is super easy (as long as you have a blender/food processor), doesn't actually involve any cooking, uses up stale bread and tastes surprisingly delicious! It is based on a recipe I saw on River Cottage during their vegetarian season (on Channel4 for all you UK people). I made it much simpler by not caring about skinning and deseeding the tomatoes. If you want to do this I would suggest visiting the River Cottage website to see how Hugh does it. I also make my own croutons. He cheats.


3 thick slices stale white bread (around 100g), crusts removed*
200ml cold water
1 garlic clove, crushed
1.5 kg large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 red capsicum/pepper, deseeded and chopped
½ small red onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil for soup + 1 tbsp olive oil for toasting croutons
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
shredded basil or chopped flat-leaf parsley

Take 2 of the bread slices and tear into pieces. Put the bread into a bowl with the crushed garlic and water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Put the soaked bread and garlic, tomatoes, half the cucumber, red pepper, onion, olive oil, vinegar and sugar in a food processor (it should just fit). Process to a coarse purée and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill for 2–3 hours, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cut the final slice of bread into small squares. Brush the front and back with the oil and grill for a couple of minutes on each side to make croutons.

Serve the gazpacho topped with the croutons, shredded basil/parsley and the other half of the cucumber, chopped.

*I kept the crusts on for one of them (for my croutons) because they gave extra crunch.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cinnamon Scrolls and Donuts (Doughnuts)

Yes, I make my cinnamon scrolls and donuts with the same recipe. Topologically and semantically I might get away with it: the donuts are torus shaped and made from dough. However, I'm not sure Homer Simpson would have given my donuts the stamp of approval.

I love cookies and cake and muffins and all the really fatty, sugary stuff. It's really easy to eat something someone else made and not realise exactly how much fat and sugar goes into the product (and thus it's easy not to feel guilty about it). However, when you are physically mixing the batter and are measuring exactly how much oil and/or sugar you are using, you might not end up enjoying your lovely baked good in quite the same guiltless way.

This does not mean that the following donuts are healthy; everything in moderation. (Although, these donuts really need to be consumed on the day of baking (next day at the latest) so you might need to share in order to avoid eating them all yourself.) But these donuts are a lot healthier than your tradional donut from Krispy Kreme.

This dough recipe is based on the recipe for the dough for the Cinnamon Rolls in The Joy of Vegan Baking. In fact, my cinnamon scroll recipe is closely based around that recipe. I guess American cinnamon rolls are like Australian cinnamon scrolls and British Chelsea buns.

The dough you make will need 1-2 hours to rise so keep that in mind if you are pushed for time. You wil also need an electric stand mixer. If you don't have one you can do it just fine by hand but it'll be some work!

Also, don't be put off with the length of the recipe. It might look complicated at first glance but it is actually really simple once you have read through the instructions. And the results are well worth it!

Dough (for cinnamon scrolls and donuts)

(Dough needs 1-2 hours to rise so keep that in mind.)

4 1/2 tsp egg replacer (5 tsp ground flaxseed)
6 tbsp water
5 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp (7g sachet) active dry yeast
1 cup soya milk
1/3 cup vegan butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk egg replacer/flaxseed together with water until thick and creamy.

Using your electric mixer with the normal paddle/mixing attachment mix 2 1/4 cups of the flour with the yeast. 

In a small saucepan heat the milk, butter, sugar and salt until butter is almost melted. Stir constantly. Pour into flour mixture in electric mixer and mix on low speed. Add the egg replacer mixer and turn to high/beat for 3 minutes.

Switch attachments to the hook-looking one. Put the mixer on low and mix in remaining flour gradually for 3-5 minutes until you have a moderately soft, smooth and elastic dough. You might end up with 1/2 a cup of flour left over. If you don't need it, don't use it. Your dough should be tacky but not sticky to touch.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in greased bowl. Let it rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place or until the dough has doubled in size. 

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover with a clean tea towel and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then roll it out.

Cinnamon Scrolls

advanced prep required: scrolls needs about 1 hour to rise (this is in addition to the 1-2 hours above)

soya milk for brushing


3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1/2 raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (or other)


1 cup icing/confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp vegan butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp soya milk

Prepare your dough as above.

Mix all the filling ingredients together.

Roll the dough into a 30cm square (12-inches for those of you still living in my grandma's era).

Spread the filling out over the dough. Do this evenly.

Roll the dough into a log (so that you can see the spirals at the ends). Pinch at the end to seal.

Slice the log into 8 equal slices (you should havd little flat cylinders with sprials of yummy filling showing). Place the slices on a greased tray or baking paper.* Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes-1 hour in a warm place until they double in size (keep this in mind when placing).

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F) and (uncover and) brush the scrolls with the soya milk. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

To make icing combine all the icing ingredients in a bowl. After the scrolls have cooled for 5 minutes drizzle the icing over them. Serve warm. Best eaten day of baking (or next day at the latest).

*You can actually do all of this the day before and then put them in the fridge and carry on with the instructions from here.

(Healthier) Donuts

Prepare your dough as above.

Cut out donut shapes. I do this by using a wide glass for the outside circle and a small, sample-size jam jar for the inner circle. I'm sure you can also buy donut cutters or you could do it free-hand. You should end up with a bunch of donuts and holes. Keep both.

Place the donuts + holes on a greased or baking paper lined tray. Cover with cling wrap/film and let rise for 45min-1 hour. Donuts and holes should double in size.

Preheat oven to 190C (375F). Uncover the donuts and brush with soya milk. Baked for 10-15 minutes until the bottoms start to turn golden brown.

Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.

If you want to ice your donuts then let them cool completely and ice with whatever your favourite glaze is (the icing for the scrolls will do with a bit of cocoa if you like chocolate). If you want the traditional cinnamon donut then let them cool a little (a few minutes will do) then give them a quick spray with oil and roll them in a cinnamon-sugar mix (1 tsp cinnamon to 1/2 cup sugar).

Best eaten day of baking (or next day at the latest).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RSS Feed Gadget Added

You can now subscribe to my blog via RSS feed using whatever service you prefer. You can find the option at the top of the left hand column.

I've been in the Peak District again this weekend. Lots of food reviews to come as well as some yummy new recipes!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Soba and Kombu Dashi soup

Kombu dashi. I used dark soya sauce so my soup is quite dark. A light soya sauce will give a lighter soup.

I really love Japanese food. I especially love Japanese soups; they are low in fat but are warm and yummy on an autumn's afternoon.

We recently had a Japanese PhD student visiting our lab for a few months and she introduced us to a lot of Japanese food and cooking we would never have known about. And her father owns a chain of sushi restaurants in Japan so I think we can take it for granted that she knows what she is talking about!

I recently asked her for a recipe for some sort of soba noodle soup. She gave me the below recipe (to which I've added only minor comments). It involves something called kombu which is dried kelp to make the base soup. We found some in our local Asian grocer (although the packet is not necessarily going to be in English so you should ask someone). Besides from that the ingredients are pretty standard.

Kombu. An essential, pre-prepared ingredient for the soup base.

 Soba and Kombu Dashi soup

for the kombu dashi (advanced prep needed)
6 cups water
3 x 2 inch pieces of kombu

for the noodle soup
400g/14 oz. dried soba (buckwheat noodles)
1/3 cup soya sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp salt

for the topping
~300g block of tofu
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 leek, finely chopped
1 sheet nori, shredded

In advance:

The kombu dashi soup base can be made in 2 different ways: a quick way or a long (better) way. 

For both ways you take the kombu pieces and tear a couple of one inch tears on each end of the piece. This is to give the water somewhere newly exposed to seep in to. The piece should still be whole just with tears on each end (see picture).
Tear the ends of the kombu about 1 inch.

The long way to make the kombu dashi is to place the pieces in the 6 cups of water and soak for at least 4 hours (overnight is fine). The quicker way is to soak for 20 minutes and then slowly bring the soaking kombu to the boil. Before it starts bubbling, take it off the heat. After you've done either of these you need to strain the water to remove the pieces of kombu and anything else. To do this use a sieve and line it with 2 paper towels. Pour the liquid through the paper towels and sieve. You should collect some very clear, pure liquid at the other end. Discard the pieces and keep the clear liquid. The clear liquid is your kombu dashi.

To make the soup:

First fry the tofu. To do this you should pat your tofu block with paper towels to absorb as much liquid as possible. Then slice the tofu up into small chunks. Heat the sesame oil in a wok on high and fry the tofu for 2-3 minutes on each side. Once fried, place the tofu on clean paper towels to soak up some of the oil.

Cook your soba noodles according to the packet instructions (normally boil water, add soba, boil for 6-7 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water).

Heat the kombu dashi soup with the soya sauce, mirin, and salt in a large pot to make the soup. 
 Serve the soba noodles into four bowls. Pour the hot boiling soup over the noodles. Put the toppings on top of the noodles in each bowl.

Serves four.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Get Stuffed!

Stuffed vegetables are awesome. Especially when you stuff the vegetables with more vegetables! The weather is getting colder so warm, yummy food with lots of vegatables (and vitamins), like the pictured dish, is more than welcome.

My general rule with stuffed vegetables goes a little something like: use whatever is in your fridge. I've posted about a stuffed field mushroom recipe before. However, zucchinis/courgettes stuffed with a delicious vegan pate is just as yummy. How do you make this delicious vegan pate? Well! I'm glad you asked.

Vegan Pate
adapted from vegan

1 cup red lentils
1/2 brown onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 cup of vegetable stock
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vegemite/marmite*
2 tbsp chopped dates
1 tbsp canola/rapeseed oil
1 tsp soya milk
1 tsp chopped thyme

Put lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water (water should be about 2-3 inches above the lentils). Bring lentils to the boil then drain and rinse.

Return lentils to the saucepan with the onion, garlic and vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Drain the lentils again. Stir in remaining ingredients. 

Blend the lentil mix in the pot using a hand held stick blender or transfer the mix into a food processor/blender/liquidiser and blend until smooth.

Eat hot or cold.

If you want to stuff courgettes with the pate just cut about 1/4 of each courgette away along the length and scoop out the inside with a teaspoon. Brush with oil and bake for 15 minutes. Then add the pate and bake for another 10 minutes. If you are having trouble getting the courgette to sit flat then slice a sliver off the bottom edge, along the length.

The pate is also great on toast or crusty bread. I used it for a couple of days on sandwiches on fresh, grain bread with some vegan luncheon meat. It was very yummy!

* Or some sort of yeast extract paste.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I'm not dead nor have I given up on cooking. I'm just super, super busy! But I have many new recipes to share and lots of reviews of restaurants from all over Europe so hang in there a little longer and I promise to update very soon!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mildreds (Soho, London, UK)

A friend of ours has been long recommendingng the decadent vegan chocolate & raspberry truffle cake at Mrs Marengo's in Soho. Unfortunately, they aren't open on weekends (and are only open for breakfast and lunch on week days) which is the only time we can make it down to London. 

Luckily for us Mrs Marengo's is actually the sister cafe of Mildreds Vegetarian Restaurant which is only two doors up on the same street in Soho. And they also have the chocolate & raspberry truffle cake!

Mildreds is small, like all London restaurants, but very airy and light. The service is very good and the servers seem to know most of their customers quite well which is nice although it can get a little hard to get their attention when they are chatting.

The food was really yummy, very well presented and came out quite quickly. We really enjoyed our meal, especially since we'd run into the restaurant sheltering from a storm, but the bill was a bit on the high end. It was even more insult to injury when we looked at the menu from Mrs Marengo's and realised that much of the menu was the same but about half the price. Sure, the service in a cafe is very different to the service in a restaurant and it was the weekend, but it did make us feel a little cheated.

sri lankan sweet potato and cashew nut curry served with yellow basmati rice with peas and tomato sambal
mixed mushroom, porcini and ale pie served with fries and mushy peas

My recommendation would be to go on a weekday and go to the cafe instead but if you are looking for a nice vegetarian dinner or somewhere on the weekends it's worth a visit to Mildreds. Just be prepared for about £6+£10+£6 for starter, main and dessert.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Corn Fritters

It's May Week here in Cambridge and for a whole week the town gets stuck in some sort of high society time warp. The entire student population pretty much stays in black tie attire for the week as they ball hop with the only exception to this rule being when they don their blazers and hat and gloves for the garden parties. It's an experience so out of touch with the rest of the world it's almost embarrassing. It's also a lot of fun.

May Week begins with Suicide Sunday. It's the Sunday after exams have finished for everyone and, apparently more importantly, the Sunday after Bumps have concluded (Bumps is a rowing thing that I'm not entirely sure I understand). There are many garden parties on from about 9am to 10pm and lots of people end up drinking all day and feeling very sorry for themselves the day after.

We decided to start our Suicide Sunday with a vegan champagne brunch at our house and I made lots of yummy vegan goodies. One of the biggest successes was some very easy to make corn fritters.

Corn Fritters

1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp frozen corn/sweetcorn
4 tbsp self-raising flour (wholemeal, if you have it)
2 tsp dried vegan veggie stock or bouillon powder
4 tbsp soya milk
2 tsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp chopped chives (about half a bunch)
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and fry corn for a few minutes until it is hot.

Combine flour, bouillon powder, milk, vinegar, chives and pepper in a bowl. Add sweetcorn and stir thoroughly.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan again and add tablespoons of the mixture to the pan. Fry on the first side for 30 seconds (do not flatten yet) then flip. Then with the back of the spatula press the fritter down until it is under 1cm thick. Cook on the second side until golden brown. Flip again and cook on the first side until also golden brown.

Transfer the fritters to a lined baking tin and bake for 5-10 minutes until they rise a little.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Garlic Bread

You will have to forgive my lack of posting recently. I've had exams. And if any of you are ever wondering if you should do Part III maths exams at Cambridge the answer is: no. No, don't do it. It's horrid.

While I was studying Geoff was kind enough to go away so that I could have the house to myself. However, this did mean that I had no one to cook me dinner at my command so I had to come up with a few quick, easy and tasty meals.

Pasta, of course, is very easy to make especially if you cheated and bought some vegan pesto from your local vegetarian store (which Cambridge has). Sometimes, however, you feel like you need something else to make your meal a little more interesting. And this is how I discovered how to make a very easy garlic bread.

Garlic Bread

2-4 slices of bread
2 tbsp of vegan butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped very finely
1 tsp Italian herbs* (dried is fine)

 Put the grill on.

Put the bread slices in the toaster on the lowest setting. This is to ensure that when you put the butter on the toast and put it under the grill it is firm enough to not go soggy but not toasted enough to burn.

While the toast is toasting mix the butter, garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Once the toast is up let it cool for about a minute and then spread the garlic butter over the slices. 

Put the slices under the grill, butter side up, until the edges and garlic start to go golden brown.

This recipe could also easily be adapted to go on a warm baguette (put in the oven for 10 minutes or so) or some other, more traditional breads.

* Supermarkets do tend to carry a "Italian herbs" bottle of spices that we buy. If you aren't a fan of this, or you can't get any, you basically just need basil, parsely and small amount of oregano and thyme.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Iodine & Sushi

I'll be the first to admit that a vegan diet takes a lot of consideration in order to get all the right vitamins. However, this certainly does not justify a non-vegan diet. The world is (scarily) full of people who don't get enough of the right things whether they eat meat or not. If anything being vegan has made me more aware of how to eat better and I think that's a great thing.

In the UK, New Zealand and Australia there have been increasing numbers of people with iodine deficiencies (see this). There are lots of reasons for this including a move away from salt and dairy but it's a bit scary because a lack of iodine is linked with horrid things like breast and stomach cancer, mental retardation and thyroid problems (although too much iodine can also cause thyroid problems and harm your baby if you are pregnant so be careful!).

In our little household we do use salt quite a bit in cooking but we use sea salt so it does not have the added bonus of iodine (where as table salt, at least in Australia, does). A good source of iodine is seafood but as we are a vegan household (except for the cheese Geoff sneaks in the shopping trolley, to my horror) that fact is not of much use. Luckily, seaweed is also a good source of iodine so bring on the sushi!

Seaweed is a good source of iodine for vegans who don't eat iodised salt.
Until today I was quite concerned about my iodine intake. The UK doesn't have very good soil so vegetables etc are quite iodine poor. In Brisbane I used to eat sushi at least once a week but here it is not the same quick, cheap, fresh snack it is in Australia. Our last (and first) trip to a sushi train here in Cambridge cost us £25! But then Geoff came home with a sushi mat, nori, Japanese rice, tofu and avocado. And for the very first time I made my own sushi.

Rolling the sushi requires a knack that I am yet to obtain. But it was still yummy!
I cooked 2 cups of the rice according to the packet instructions but then I added 2 tbsp mirin and stirred. I then spread all of the rice out onto a tray. Then I mixed 1/4 cup rice vinegar with a little salt and 1 tsp sugar and spread this evenly over the cooling rice. Then I stirred the rice, spread it out again and let it cool a little more.

For each roll I used 1 sheet of nori (shiny smooth side down) and 1 cup of rice (spread over 2/3 of the nori). I then made an indent half way on the rice (so 1/3 the way up the entire thing), placed the fillings in and then rolled. I have no idea how to roll properly but am hoping I will learn soon enough.

The fillings I used were avocado, fried tofu marinated in kecap manis (sweet, thick soy sauce) and vegetables (sundried tomatoes, spring onions, carrot).

I readily admit my rolls weren't as neat as the ones you get in a restaurant or stall but making them yourself means that they are much fresher so are really delicious! And it's a lot cheaper too!

If you want to know more about a vegan diet and iodine check out this link. It does suggest a supplement is the best way to get the right amount of iodine but eating some sushi now and then will help out as well!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comfort Food

Skillet Gardener's Pie
 I'm studying at the moment which is why I have been a little absent. Geoff has been doing all the cooking and I've been breaking my procrastination up between episodes of the L-word (which I'm about as fond of as Gossip Girl (which, if you did not already know, is a very very bad show) but that ain't stopping me from watching it), posting on Facebook about how angry I am about various things (voting referendum, human rights violations, Geoff breaking my Tupperware can opener etc etc) and pilates.

Right now I'm posting this as a break from climate change study. I smelled Geoff cooking in the kitchen and it reminded me of something I've been wanting to say on my blog for quite a while. It goes something like this: FatFree Vegan Kitchen's Skillet Gardener's Pie is one of the most delicious, comforting foods I've eaten for quite a while and it's super easy to make!

Now, I know it's very lazy of me to just steal someone else's recipe and post about it. Normally, I find a recipe and tweak it to my liking (and convert from those horrid imperial units to nice metric ones) but this recipe was so tasty as it was that there's not much point pretending to change it.

The only variation we did try was to use sweet potato on top instead of normal potato and it worked just as well. The sweet potato, however, is a little thinner so add the milk slowly as you may not need as much.

With sweet potato topping instead of potato.

While we are on the topic of comfort food (and FatFree Vegan Kitchen) I thought I'd also mention Susan V's Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choi recipe. This was the first time I had ever cooked with polenta and was curiously surprised by the way it thickens up in the saucepan (I don't have a pressure cooker so couldn't cook it the way she suggests). It was quite easy to cook although all the stirring certainly gave me a work out. However, I was a little disappointed with its lack of flavour and how heavy it was in the dish. Most of the casual cooks I know love polenta but it just didn't float my boat. The vegetables in the dish too were a little bit of a disappointment (I used balsamic vinegar, since white vinegar seems impossible to get here, and I'm not sure if it was that that caused the unusual, biting taste the vegetables had or if the dish just wasn't to my taste).

Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choi
I still like the idea of the dish, though, and I like that polenta is filling and easy to make so I might try to build on the recipe in the future. Any ideas or other similar recipe suggestion would be most welcomed!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Zilli Green (London, UK)

*Note from restaurant: Zilli Green is being relocated from Monday 25th July 2011 and will no longer be in Dean Street.  To make sure our vegetarian customers are not neglected whilst this transition happens we have a selection of Vegetarian Dishes from the menu available in Zilli Fish restaurant, this will be cooked by our Zilli Green Head Chef to ensure the quality of the meals.  Please call 0207734 8649 for more information or to make a reservation.*

Zilli Green is a very neat little vegetarian restaurant tucked away on Dean St, Soho. Like everything in London (and the UK) it is very small but the setting is very pleasant nonetheless.

We ate here on the weekend as a bit of a treat. I call it a treat because the service, menu planning, quality of food and ambiance all were absolutely fantastic. However, don't be confused when you see the prices which were quite reasonable for a Soho meal (£9-13 for a main) and well below what I would expect for the service we received.

I was desperate to try the vegan tiramisu so I skipped the starter to make sure I had room for it. For the main I ordered the tofu steak which was very well presented and quite tasty. I do regret not going for the soya burger but I will be sure to visit again.

Geoff ordered the Malasian Laksa which he said was really good. The vegan options were clearly labelled but seem to contradict the website (for example the laksa is vegan on the website but not on the inhouse menu and vice versa for the tiramisu). Our friend ordered the Tagliatelle, Porcini Mushrooms & White Truffle Oil (which can be made vegan) and she was also quite impressed with it. This was the more expensive of the mains on the menu but the portion size very very generous (a lot bigger than my tofu steak) so probably worth it if you are hungry (she was very full by the end of it).

The tiramisu ended up being a bit of a disappointment. As much as I appreciate the fact that they had a vegan tiramisu it seemed to lack the potency of a liqueur. I could taste too much of the cake and not enough of the creamy, chocolatey goodness.

Geoff, however, was lucky enough to order the vegan cheesecake which was absolutely delicious. So I ate my dessert and then ate some of Geoff's!

As you can see the food was beautifully presented and, for the most part, was quite tasty. The desserts were quite pricey (£7-9) but if you want a special, romantic or celebratory night out this would be a place to consider. Just be warned that you need to be double jointed to use the tiny, tiny bathroom and that it's a unisex toilet so there's no guarantee the last person put the toilet seat down!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Food For Thought (London, UK)

We went down to London yesterday to see Hamlet at the National Theatre. Of course I like to get as many London vegan meals in as possible so we booked a table at Zilli Green (review to come) for dinner and planned to go to WholeFoods to stock up on vegan cosmetics and have some lunch. Geoff, however, had a different plan and we ended up in Chinatown before I knew it so he could get some Pandan Mochi. Since we were short on time we decided to have lunch somewhere closer.

Geoff had actually been introduced to Food for Thought earlier that week by a friend of ours (who is also from Brisbane but is living in London for a little bit). He loved it so, with the help of my extremely unreliable GPS and GoogleMaps, we ended up there for a very fast lunch.

The restaurant is located in Covent Garden on Neal St so is easy to get to but it doesn't exactly stand out so you can walk past it without knowing it (which we kind of did).

Once you are inside you head down some narrow stairs (take-away only is up the top) and are greeted with a small blackboard explaining the pricing and a very cheery server who explains today's options.

The room is not that big but there are bathrooms and there was plenty of spare seating (although it was Easter Saturday so London was very quiet). The tables have bowls of raw sugar, sea salt and pepper and you get glasses with your meal and there is water on each table that is regularly filled.

For £8 you can get a bowl of a "main" (I had a Mediterranean stew and Geoff had a Japanese stew but there was also a vegetarian lasagne and a vegan sweet potato and rice bake available) with your choice of salads. The salad helpings were very generous and the stews were really delicious so we felt it was very good value for money. There are cheaper options (just salad or main by itself or soup for around £4) and there looked like lots of desserts but I'm not sure if any were vegan.

Geoff was so impressed with the food he bought their recipe book so look forward to some recipes from it. And in general we were quite impressed with the place so will go back regularly and I highly recommend it for a hearty lunch or dinner.

EDIT: Something I forgot to mention was their "food philosophy". Every day the menu is different and made fresh and the day's menu is determined by what fresh, seasonal ingredients they can get their hands on. This means that the vegetables were fresh and delicious and their carbon footprint is a little less.

EDIT: We recently returned here but this time for dinner. Unfortunately, most of the food was sold out by then so we didn't get the yummy stew we were expecting. We also noticed a lot of people walked out when they realised there was no butternut squash soup. The chef obviously only makes a certain amount each day so if you want access to the full range I would recommend lunch or an early dinner.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

While we are on the subject of beetroot I would highly recommend this Can't Be Beet Chocolate Cake. It is super moist and has a delicious earthy chocolate taste. And it's low fat! The Forest in Brisbane used to have a cake that was similar (which was gluten free but not low fat) so it made me a little homesick.

I made it without the sauce simply because it is so delicious I didn't think it needed it. But I'm sure it would taste great with maybe a beetroot glaze or a berry frosting.

EDIT: Since first posting this I've had a lot of people contact me about how weird they think chocolate beetroot cake is. It's very much not weird! If you are in Brisbane you all need to go to The Forest in West End and try some! Or cook this one! It really is just delicious.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beetroot Burgers

I mentioned a little while ago that my cousin had asked me to find the ultimate vegan burger recipe. I liked the Spicy Bean and Lentil Patties but thought I'd also try some other recipes. Of course my first point of reference was FatFree Vegan Kitchen and found the Roasted Beet-Tofu Burgers. However, I found the patties to be very sloppy and messy to eat. Although they look okay (see photo below) I thought the tofu in the patty made it far too soft and because you don't cook it separately it was a little bland.

After this attempt I decided to change things a little. I've been trying to move away from using too much tofu to using more beans. I've been buying lots of beans/chickpeas etc in dry form and soaking and cooking them myself. It is more effort but drastically reduces waste and energy use. The two ingredients you can prepare yourself to "save the world" I've listed under Advanced Preparation ingredients. However, I know not everyone has the time to be super green all of the time so there are alternative ingredients for the beets and chickpeas below the recipe and you won't need to do any of the advanced preparation steps.

 Beetroot Burgers

Advanced preparation ingredients:
3/4 cup dried chickpeas*
2 large fresh beets**
On the day of cooking ingredients:
1 tbsp ground flaxseed*** + 4 tbsp water
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tsp cumin, curry powder, hot chili powder
salt and pepper

Advanced preparation methods:

Soak the chickpeas overnight & cook according to packet. This will need to be done in advance.

Preheat oven to 180C. Trim the tops and roots off the beets but don't peel. Wrap each in foil and bake for an hour. Let the beets cool. Like the chickpeas this can be done in advance.

On the day of cooking methods: 

When you are ready to make the burgers peel the beets and chop roughly and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for a few minutes and then add the garlic and fry for another minute or so. Set aside to cool a little.

Put the cooked chickpeas and flaxseed + water in a food processor and blend until it looks a little like chunky bread crumbs. Add the onion, garlic and beetroot and blend a little more (if you aren't careful you'll end up with big chunks of beetroot like I did). Transfer to large bowl.

Add the breadcrumbs and spices and mix. You should have something that sticks together quite well but is squishy enough to be shaped easily in the palm.

Grab small handfuls to roll into small balls. Then you can cook them according to either method below.

Cooking Method 1:

Heat a frying pan to medium heat with some oil (spray or liquid). Place the ball into the pan and flatten very gently with a spatula. Cook about 5-8 minutes on each side watching that they don't burn. If your patty isn't flat enough you are better to let it cook on the first side and then flatten it further on the second side.

Cooking Method 2 (fat free):

Spoon balls onto a lined baking tray and flatten gently with palm. Cook for about 40-60 minutes. If you want you can check after 30 minutes and flip the burgers.

If you don't flip the burgers in the oven the downside will be
a little paler and less crispy but no less tasty.

* Alternatively, just use a 400g can of cooked chickpeas and ignore my chickpea cooking instructions.
** Alternatively, you can buy precooked beets in a tin or from the fresh food section of your supermarket. If you do this you'll need about 4 and you'll just need to roughly chop them and ignore the beet cooking instructions.
*** I'm sure some other egg replacer would work but I would recommend flaxseed for the Omega-3 and the creamy taste.

I'm not sure what is called beets where and what is called beetroots
elsewhere but you are basically looking for something that looks like this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Peach Bluba

So I have absolutely no idea if bluberries are in season or not. Since this is the UK I'm going to guess... not. But these little dudes were in my freezer and spring is pretty much here so I felt I needed some fruit dessert to celebrate. So this is my take on the classic Peach Melba which I have called Peach Bluba. Because of the blueberries. Also because I'm very clever and funny.

This dessert is ridiculously easy to make but very tasty and has some heat to take away the chill on these early spring nights but enough fruit to remind you that warmer days are on their way!

Peach Bluba

2 x peach halves*
1/2 cup frozen blueberries**
3 tbsp sugar***
1 scoop vegan ice cream

Place the sugar and blueberries in a saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until the blueberries are heated throughout and they've release some of their purple juices so you have a nice, warm, viscous sauce. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of minutes.

Place peach halves in a bowl with the ice cream. Spoon the berries over the peaches and ice cream and drizzle the blueberry sauce over as well.

* If you live in England they'll have to come out of a can because the fresh ones are just terrible at the moment.
** You could use fresh ones if you live somewhere closer to the equator.
*** I actually used fructose sugar because my agave nectar phase died out but I'm still not a big cane sugar fan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vegetable Pilau

 If you just have some rice and vegetables and are looking for something easy but tasty for dinner then I can highly recommend this vegetable rice dish. I'm not 100% sure of the differences of pilau/pilaf/etc but I think pilau has its roots in the Middle East so that's where I've stuck it.

Vegetable Pilau

1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup frozen or canned corn/sweetcorn, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup cashew nuts
2 cups water
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Wash the basmati in cold water, cover with water and leave to soak for 30 mins. 

While rice is soaking get a non-stick frying pan and dry roast the cashews in the pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Make sure you move the pan while roasting so that they don't burn. Turn out the nuts onto a plate to cool and return the pan to the stove.

Heat the oil in the pan and fry the cumin seeds for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, cardamoms and cloves and fry for 2 minutes. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the carrot and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the rice and add to the pan with the peas, corn and cashew nuts and fry for 5 minutes. Then add to this the 2 cups of water, ground cumin and salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes over a low heat until all the water is absorbed. Take it off the heat and then let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: The cloves, cardamoms and bay leaves are quite strong for the unsuspecting diner so if you like their flavour in the dish but are not so crash hot on biting into them I strongly suggest taking them out as you are leaving the dish to stand. I certainly take them out!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teriyaki Sauce

Stir fries are quick and easy. And if you use as many vegetables as I do then they are also full of vitamins. Our favourite sauce is normally made with black beans but we recently discovered this yummy teriyaki sauce and it's now used as often as the black bean sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce
adapted from vegan cooking 

4 tbsp soy sauce (preferable dark)
4 tbsp dry sherry
4 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients together then heat the mixture in a wok or frying pan.

To use toss the pre-cooked vegetables and/or noodles in the heated sauce.

To the left is a dish I made by steaming the carrot and spring onion, grilling the asparagus, frying the tofu and slicing it and just adding the noodles to the sauce. Below is where I've thrown everything in with the sauce.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spicy Bean and Lentil Loaf/Patties

One of my many cousins recently decided to give being vegetarian a try. She had tried previously but it didn't stick. This time I suggested the weekday vegetarian diet. She did and she's doing rather well at it! She even says that when she gets to the weekend she doesn't feel like eating meat.

Vegetarian cooking can be a bit daunting at first. The reason I love vegan cooking so much is because it requires so much imagination (unlike, say, Heston Blumenthal rolling four meats together, sticking them in hot water (sorry, water bathing them) and acting like he just invented cooking itself*). However, sometimes this need of creativity can be exhausting. My cousin, however, seems to have dived right in and had a bunch of questions for me... some of which I couldn't answer.

One of the questions she asked me was how to make vegan burger patties. Ummm. Good question.

I had tried making patties once before and they turned out absolutely horrid. This time it was a complete accident. I was veganising a lentil loaf recipe out of Vegetarian again when I realised I couldn't fit all the ingredients in the food processor. So I split my batch up, put the first batch in the loaf pan, realised it was full, stuck it in the oven and pondered what to do with the rest of the ingredients. Then I remembered my cousin's request for a burger recipe.

Well, they turned out just great as both a loaf and a patty.

Spicy Bean and Lentil Loaf/Patties

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic, crushed
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
400g can kidney beans, drained
400g can green/brown lentils, drained
2 heaped teaspoons of ground flaxseed** + 4 tbsp water
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup vegan cheese, grated***
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp tomato sauce/ketchup
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp hot chilli powder
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion, garlic and celery for 5 mins on low-medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool. 

Whisk the flaxseed and water together until it is creamy. Put the flaxseed mixture, onion mixture and bean and lentils in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.

The lentil loaf tastes great cold with salad or hot with vegies.
To make lentil loaf:
Preheat the oven to 180C, lightly grease a loaf tin, put mix in loaf tin and baked for 1 hour. My mix needed a bit longer but make sure you check it often if you leave it for over an hour.

Cooking the first side quickly then flipping ensures you can squash your patty down without it falling apart or getting stuck to the spatula.
 To make patties:

Heat some oil in a pan on medium heat. Spoon out a ball of mixture (it ball should be big enough to just put your hand around), roll it gently in your hands and place it in the pan. Leave it for a minute then flip the ball (this ensures you have one side that's cooked enough to be prodded without sticking). Flatten with a spatula making sure the spatula is clean so the mix doesn't stick to it. Turn the heat down to low. This is important because you want the heat to cook through the patty, which takes a while, without burning the outside. Leave for about 5 minutes and then flip again. Leave for another few minutes. Repeat for the other patties (you can cook more than on at once just make sure you turn the heat up before each batch so the first side cooks a little quicker than the second side).

Serve with some salad, hummus and chilli sauce on a bun.
* Okay, calling Heston Blumenthal unimaginative is a bit of a stretch but I'd respect his creativity a lot more if he challenged himself and didn't rely so heavily on meat.
** You can use egg replacer if you want but remember that flaxseed is full of omega 3!
*** I swear there is nothing that tastes as bad as vegan cheese but inside the loaf you can't taste it. If you don't have any lying around just leave it out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

This recipe is a veganised version of a recipe I found in the wonderfully colourful Vegetarian. The lemon adds quite a nice flavour and considering that it is not a difficult recipe to prepare and that leeks have the nifty attribute of being in season in the UK from September to March I think this is a great recipe for cold winter nights. We shared this one over a bottle of wine with some friends.

If you want to try to keep to seasonal ingredients ignore the lemon rind and just use bottled lemon juice.

Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

225g trimmed leeks (about 3)
225g brown-cap mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper
6 tbsp vegan butter
1 brown onion
1 3/4 cup aborio rice
5 cups vegie stock
3 tbsp lemon juice
lemon rind, grated
2/3 cup vegan parmesen
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Wash the leeks and slice them in half lengthways then chop roughly. Chop the mushrooms roughly too. Heat oil in a saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute and then add the leeks, mushrooms and lots of salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp of the butter to the just emptied pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute until golden. Add a ladleful of stock and cook gently, stirring now and then. Once the liquid is absorbed add another ladleful until it is absorbed. Repeat this process until the risotto is thick and creamy and the rice is tender but not sticky.

Just before serving add the leeks and mushrooms with the rest of the butter, grated rind and 3 tbsp of the lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning and serve.