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.

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.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Red Pesto

I decided to try out a roasted pepper pesto recipe from The Perfect Pantry but I pretty much suck at sticking to recipes and came up with my own. The real reason for this was that the roasted peppers (capsicum) that I bought were soaked in brine and I thought brine was salty water but apparently their definition of brine is vinegar. So my pesto tasted a lot like vinegar. The recipe also called for more vinegar and I added this except I didn't really look at the bottle it was coming from and so it turned out I added sesame oil and not balsamic vinegar.

Yes, I suck at sticking to recipes.

I would not recommend adding the sesame oil.

Red Pesto

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in oil free pan for few minutes
12 oz/340 g roasted red peppers/capsicum (from jar, weight after drained)
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup olives (pitted)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (leave this out if peppers are in brine)
1 pinch of mild red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Put ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. If pesto is a little sticky or looks like dough add another tbsp of oil.

Makes enough pesto for 500 grams of dried pasta.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gado Gado

My father has owned his own business and has worked long hours for most of my life so I don't have many childhood memories of Dad being involved in my schooling. The one memory I do have is from when I was about nine and our school had an Indonesian day (since Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours we learned Indonesian in school). Dad took time off work and came to the school for the celebration and I remember sitting on the little tiny playground benches eating peanut satay chicken kebabs on banana leaves proudly eating with my Dad. Ever since that day I've loved peanut sauces (although I gave up on the chicken a while ago).

(Mum drove us everywhere and came to every other school event but I only remember Dad's solo visit. Poor Mum.)

Gado Gado is a traditional Indonesian dish of vegetables served with a peanut sauce. The only downside to peanut sauces are that they are quite high in fat but they are goddamn tasty so I'm happy to treat myself now and then. And considering the amount of vegetables you eat with this dish it's not too bad of a balance.

The things that makes this dish is the sauce so as long as you have that you can change the vegetables to whatever you have in the cupboard. However, I've included a recipe for a vegetable mixture because I loved the crunchy texture of it.

The only odd ingredient in this mix is the galangal. I've not seen it in the UK or in Australia fresh but we found a jar of galangal at Tesco and I just use that. It's popped up in a few recipes so it's handy to have. I imagine it would be easy to come across in Chinatown in Australia or maybe even just the supermarket.

Gado Gado

250g white cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, matchsticked
4 celery sticks, matchsticked
4 cups/250g beansprouts
1/2 cucumber, matchsticked
3 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 brown onion, cut into rings
salted peanuts, to garnish
chilli, sliced to garnish

Peanut Sauce
1 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp minced galangal
1/4 tsp ground chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp lime juice
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp soft light brown sugar

To cook the vegetables heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion rings and set aside on a paper towel to cool. Steam the cabbage, carrot and celery for 3-4 minutes (you want them tender but still with some crunch). Spread beansprouts on a plate and place steamed vegies and cucumber on top.

To make the sauce heat the oil in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in spices (including galangal) and cook for 1 min further. Add lime juice, peanut butter and sugar and mix well. Heat sauce gently, stirring occasionally and adding a little hot water if necessary to make the sauce runny enough to be poured but still thick.

Spoon some of the sauce over the vegetables, toss lightly and garnish with fried onion, peanuts and chilli with the extra sauce on the side.