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.

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!