Sunday, 30 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Diwali Australian Style

This is a little belated, but in honour of Diwali (the Festival of Lights) being last week, I decided to have a go at making Jalebi.  Basically it's a batter that you use a piping bag for to make concentric circles or pretzel shapes in a frying pan, fried, drained, and then soaked in syrup. It worked out pretty well for the first attempt.  I really like the subtle saffron and cardamon flavoured syrup. I will give this another bash and try and get the finer circles that Indian cooks do so well. 

We got a box of new season mangoes quite cheaply from the fruit shop, and I decided to make a potato, spinach, coconut, and mango curry. I added some roasted macadamias (a nut native to Australia) instead of the more traditional Indian use of cashews or almonds. It was really yummy, and I'll make it again - if I can remember what I did, because I made it up as I went along!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Spring Fever Garden

I've been spending the afternoon in the garden, weeding, thinning, mulching, tidying, inspecting... Life has been so busy the last few weeks I've barely been into the garden, and due to Spring Fever all the garden has  begun to jungle. Which means I have to get my ass into gear and tidy up before it gets out of hand.

Thinning Fruit....
My peaches have gone nuts. I have too many fruitlets and it is time for thinning. As you can see above I need to take out at least two (the smaller ones in the middle) to allow the other fruit to grow properly. If this is not done I will have very poor small fruit, and the tree will suffer as it sends all its energy into producing masses of tiny fruit. The same principle applies to all other fruit trees, so now is the time to thin, thin, thin out. 
No just fruit trees either. The carrots I have sown had their first thinning out today, and will have another one in a few weeks time, and I'll also have to thin out and transplant the lettuce I have sown between the rows of carrots.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch...
My early planted, coddled potatoes are paying off. The frost net has come off for good as Melbourne Cup Day is almost here and I use this as a reminder that frosts are now over. They are three times as large as those planted at the "recommended" time, and a spot check revealed potatoes are forming already. The soil has warmed up sufficiently to allow me to hill up and mulch around my plants - if this is done too early the soil stays too cold and the plants do not grow as well. 

My heart leaps at the sight of artichoke flowers popping up among their gorgeous silvery fronds. Of course, lots of people do not get excited about artichokes, but the best price I've seen is $2.00 a flower - mine are for free! In a couple of weeks stuffed artichokes will undoubtedly be on the menu...I'm salivating thinking about the hearts drenched in garlic olive oil...

The strawberries also needed mulching, as my early plantings have already begun to fruit. The sugar cane mulch will keep the fruit clean and dry to prevent rot. I'll also have to net for birds before they begin to have a smidge of pink.

 Broad beans! How do I love thee, let me count the ways... Broad beans in lemon and cumin dressing, with new potatoes, broad bean pesto, tiny whole beans in stir frys...dried for winter stews... Ok, I'm a little excited about broad beans, but they are so easy to grow in the mountains, and produce so abundantly how could I not love them. They taste amazing straight out of the garden, so I'm also salivating about those...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Gluten Free Warm Pasta & Potato Salad

The Beloved was out tuning again last night (he does pipe organ tuning still to keep up his skills), so the Kitchen Fairy and myself had a simple dinner.  I roasted some chat potatoes; cooked some gluten free penne; sauteed some mushrooms, onions, and pinenuts; and added some salad leaves, tomato and olives. I tossed some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the lot, with some lemon and pepper, and voila! Dinner for some can't-be-very-bothered people!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Some Tees for Me

I know this is not food related, but it's animal lover related, and that's just as important!  I've had the crappiest day  week  two weeks. And today, I came home to find some tee shirts I ordered (what feels like a hundred years ago) finally here! Hurrah! And so I have to share them with you. So the first tee is from the people at PETA, how cute is that cow? I love how the (roast) text is in that small print that reminds me of contracts or terms and conditions that nobody reads. But hopefully, maybe I'll get a second look or two?

The second I just thought was cutesy,but I love cats! I have four of them! So Yoshi kindly modelled it for me - that is to say, he just kept snoozing and I just stuck it in front of him. Awwww.

 All my cats certainly did have me at meow, or in Moko's case 'me-er' cos he can't say meow (he's the black and white puss)

And my girls...Sooki and Kimiko. How could you say no to those li'l faces?

Vegan MoFo: Raw Stuffed Capsicums

Nothing particularly exciting I know. But it was VERY filling!  The Kitchen Fairy and myself chomped on these not long ago and were surprised at how full we were afterwards. I got some lovely yellow capsicums, and stuffed them with finely chopped vegies like carrot, tomato, cucumber celery, and spring onion, and then I topped them with a sauce of cashews, sundried tomato and tahini. It was so yummy!  I think we'll be eating more of these over Summer.another easy peasy raw recipe to add to the list!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Tamales and Blue Corn Chips

I completely forgot to post these when I made them. How I forgot, I really don't know, because I was super excited when the package from Monteray Mexican Foods in Sydney arrived at what seemed like the speed of light - full of ingredients for me to make tamales and corn chips from scratch. Now, for those in the US it must seem I'm making quite a fuss over something that is quite ordinary, but for an Aussie, tamales are not very common. In fact, I suspect there would be quite a few of us who have no idea what a tamale tastes like, much as there are many Americans that have no idea about the delights of vegemite on toast. But anyway, I'm rambling. I made my tamales with a bean, tomato, and spinach filling, and I wrapped them in corn husks and steamed them away in my rice cooker. They worked out perfectly! And they were a hit. I had mine with Sheese spicy cream cheese, jalapenos, and vegan sour cream. They kind of reminded me of a Mexican flavoured steamed bun. And I had a go at making blue corn chips, which I pretty much, ahem, devoured alone. I'm not going to post the recipes right now, perhaps at a later date when I've done a tweak here and a tweak there, but I think I'll be ordering some more stuff soon. And I can't wait until my home grown tomatillos are ready for picking, because I have a hunch they will be quite spectacular with these! 

Vegan MoFo: Raw Vegan Sushi Rolls

The weather is warming up, I feel Summer coming! This means I want to eat lighter foods, and eat more raw vegan. The Beloved bought me a new raw food "uncook" book while he was in Perth last week, Raw Food Reawakening and I've been inspired again. So tonight I made sushi using cauliflower for "rice" with the usual fillings like carrot, cucumber, alfalfa, and avocado. I made a dressing with tamari, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar, but unfortunately forgot the pickled ginger - oh well.  It was pretty quick to put together, but a bit more messy than traditional sushi rolls. My little food processor definitely made light work of the cauliflower florets. They need to be eaten straight after you make them, in my experience they just sog too much to take in a lunchbox to work. But they are pretty filling, and just as tasty as the regular kind, without all the empty calories. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Little Break...

I haven't cooked all weekend, terrible, I know. But I just wouldn't have had the energy. It's been a very busy, long week for me, and after finishing work on Saturday morning I just wanted to flop. So the Beloved and I went to see a very dear friend of mine, whose parents own this amazing property. They are in the middle of building this fantastic passive solar house to enjoy their beautiful valley, and I'm looking forward to seeing it when it's finished. All of Susan's gorgeous grevilleas and bottlebrushes were in flower, and it was pretty warm weather! 

We did talk about food a lot though, as we are preparing to help out with some catering for a wedding, and Meredith was making sorbet - so this post still involves food. Meredith bless her cotton socks, made me lots of cups of tea, fed me a yummy dinner of a salad made with roasted vegies, green leaves, and toasted almonds; and finished it with some home made strawberry and coconut sorbets. I slept the best sleep I have had all week, and woke to the quiet of the valley, birdsong, and some wallabies bounding across the grass. I feel my batteries got recharged. So thank you Mez, and Stu and Sue my dears, for a little rest!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Birthday Cookie Bouquet

It's the Beloved's birthday today, so I decided to make him a cookie bouquet. I saw this in a magazine but I can't remember where or when... so I just winged it. I made ginger macadamia cookies, and chocolate ones, using recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I would have liked to have used a  flower cookie cutter and iced them...but it's been a very busy week, I haven't had much time. And I had to bake them while he was away in Perth so he wouldn't know what I was up to. But hey, they still look cute! and it was a  totally appropriate gift for a boy...I mean.... man. My man, because Murray has a serious sweet tooth. When the cookies were still warm and soft straight out of the oven, I used different lengths of bamboo skewers and inserted them carefully through the middle. Then I laid them on a wire rack to cool and harden, and kept them in a sealed container until this 4.30 when I had to get up for work and he was still snuggled in bed! I used a deep jar filled with rice so I could arrange the cookies, and tied it with a bow, leaving it on the kitchen bench so he saw it when he got up. Judging by the number of now deflowered bamboo stems, I'd say they were a hit!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Liebster Award

Stef and Jennifer at Beans, Figs, and Katz have nominated me for a  a Liebster (German for favourite, beloved or dearest) Award - thank you so much girls! If you haven't checked out their blog during VeganMoFo, head there now.

The idea of the award is to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers but if you can't see how many followers a blog has, just nominate whoever you like!

1. Show you thanks by linking to the person who nominated you.
2. Link to 5 of your top picks and leave a comment on their blog to let them know.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people on the interweb!

My top five picks are

3. Rachel at Benevolent bites
4.Susan at Kittens Gone Lentil
5. Trista at All But the Kitchen Sink 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Tea Smoked Tofu

Sometimes I get really good inspiration from reading cooking mags, and one of them just happens to be Donna Hay. Granted, the magazine uses an awful lot of meat, but her tips and techniques are really good, not to mention her flavour combos. I was looking through the June/July issue and spotted the recipe for tea smoked fish. Although I was a bit 'erk' about the fish, I got a bit excited about making my own smoked tofu. Tea + tofu, two of my favourite things! There's lots of how to's on the net, but basically, the idea is to put equal parts of tea, sugar, and rice on some foil, suspend your firm tofu over the top on a greased wire rack (as shown) and heat up on a BBQ, shutting the lid. Folks, this should NOT be done in the kitchen - unless you want a smoked house, and the firies to turn up at your door! I smoked mine for about half an hour. The flavour was subtle, so I think I'll try this one again with a different flavoured tea, and smoke longer, but it was still worth it. Considering smoked tofu at the co op is about 200gr and costs about $8.00, and I can get a 600gr tofu for less than $3.00, I think this is worth pursuing! We made a dinner out of it with celeriac and potato latkes, orange infused beetroot relish, sauteed baby spinach, and vegan sour cream. It was delish!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: A Chicken In My Kitchen

I know what you're thinking...but don't worry, this is the only kind of chicken that will be in my kitchen. Meet Penny, one of my chooks. Today I came home to find that Penny had figured out the cat door = kitchen = food.  It didn't seem to bother her very much that the cats were indoors, I'm sure if she could she would sit in front of the fire with Moko (one of our cats). She's one very smart bird, and full of personality. She also happens to be an ex- battery hen, as you can see from the end of her clipped beak. When we first got her she had a lot of missing feathers and looked pretty miserable, not to mention not knowing what to do with all that space! All that was three years ago, but now she's boss lady of all our other chickens and ducks, and healthy and happy. It was just a reminder to me today one of the reasons I don't eat animals, all the more reason to keep blogging and read other blogs through this month to show people what we're about.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Beetroot Prosciutto

I came up with this primarily for sandwiches (tea sandwiches for a vegetarian high tea wedding to be precise). But also as an addition to vegan Caesar and anything else you can think of that calls for prosciutto, or as a friend used to call it : pros-queet-o (she pronounced the "c"). Of course, it still tastes like beetroot, but it has the salty flavour and leathery/chewy texture of it's non veg counterpart. This process can get a little messy with all the beetroot juice, so I used gloves so my hands wouldn't get stained. It would have been more helpful if I had used a mandolin (it's high up there on my shopping list) but a good sharp knife works just as well. I made a fairly big batch, and it keeps well in  a sealed container in oil. 

First I peeled my beetroot, and then cut it into fine slices, as you can see below.


I then salted it and left it in a colander in the sink for an hour to "bleed out." 
Hmmm, that sounds a bit gross actually.

 Anyhoo, after that I rinsed the beetroot thoroughly under cold running water, and left it to drain again for half an hour. This is really important, as when you dehydrate foods you should not add salt, or basically, it tastes like salt and nothing else. I guess you could pat it dry instead. I then arranged the slices on the sheets for fruit leather on my dehydrator ( I have a Fowlers one, it's pretty good). Alternatively you could arrange it on baking paper and put it on low in the oven.

 I left the beetroot for about two hours. It should be dry to the touch, but still pliable. (I know, it doesn't look pliable, but it was). I then put them in a bowl with some extra virgin olive oil, and thoroughly coated every slice. I left them overnight, but an hour would probably do the same thing. I tried one to see if it had that saltiness I remember that dead animal prosciutto has, and found I needed a pinch more salt. Taste test yours, as it may not need the salt, depending on the type of beetroot etc. Drain off excess oil before using. It tastes really good in a tea sandwich with fig jam and rocket if I do say so myself!

Vegan MoFo: Heaven in a Glass

I know, I already posted today. But I really wanted to share this. What you are looking at folks, is heaven in a glass! Now my friend Kylie may disagree, as to her I'm pretty sure heaven in a glass would involve some pretty nice wine. But Kylie, this is better, and it still involves alcohol! I made a small hazelnut cake using the recipe for hazelnut cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, cut it into slices, and dunked it in Frangelico (which I am pleased to say, is totally vegan). I made some avocado chocolate mousse (just like the stuff I put in my raw chocolate tart) and put a can of coconut cream in the fridge. When the cream was super cold, I scooped out all the solid coconut from the top and whipped it with a bit of vanilla. I then layered up cake, mousse, and cream, and topped with raspberries. And since it was monks that concocted my favourite liqueur, surely it isn't a stretch to say that this is indeed a little bit of heaven? 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Friday Night Pizza

Friday night in my house is pretty much pizza night. We prefer to make our own from scratch, and it really doesn't take very long. With the Beloved away in Perth over the next few days, it's just me and the Kitchen Fairy. Last night it was lots of mushrooms, some really good marinated olives we got from the growers market, and the last of the home grown marinated artichoke hearts, with lots of herbs, and cheezly mozzarella. I really hit the spot!

There are a million pizza base recipes out there, but this is mine, and it's fast.

1 cup bakers flour
1 tsp dried yeast
2tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Approx 1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

I put the yeast, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix warm water through, and turn on the oven to 180C. I leave the yeast mixture somewhere warm for 5 minutes until it froths, and then I add the oil and water. If it's too runny, just add a bit more flour. I don't knead pizza dough for very long, just so it's well mixed. It should be slightly sticky dough. There are lots of recipes that call for leaving it to rise, blah blah blah...but I never do. I just roll it out nice and thin and put my favourite toppings on, and in the oven it goes! 15 minutes later i have a golden pizza. It only takes about 30 minutes to make pizza from scratch, I'm sure you could do it quicker than ordering in hey?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: An Indian Feast from Scratch

Pappadums, Raita, Bhajis, and Fresh Mango Chutney
Can I just say... I didn't make this tonight! I made this a few weeks ago and just never got round to posting, partly because it was pretty dark to take decent photos. What I made was Butter Tofu, Onion and Spinach Bhajis, Fresh Mango Chutney, Naan, and pappadums. (You can just see the naan in the photo below behind the butter tofu). I made it all from scratch (except the pappadums, I just bought the ones you pop in the microwave) using the recipes out of a cookbook given to me by my sister-in- law Claire. It is my go to cookbook for anything remotely Indian, and the recipes always work out. You know how some books have recipes that require constant tweaking?  The book is Traditional Indian Cooking by Ramola Parbhoo, and I recommend it. Although it has many non veg recipes, it is easy to veganise, as I did with the butter chicken recipe.
Butter Tofu with Basmati Rice
 I subbed coconut cream for regular cream and vegan margarine for butter. I will say this, agree or disagree with me, but curry pastes always taste better home made with fresh spices than the stuff out of the jar! And it really isn't that hard! You could use mock chicken pieces instead of tofu, but I think the firm tofu works pretty well. I used home made soy yoghurt to make the naan, and it tasted like the real thing. To cook the naan, it works really well on the hot plate of a barbecue rather than baking it in the oven, as it gets hot enough to bubble up and cook fast. At a pinch I use my cast iron wok, but it tends to smoke out the kitchen!   
Onion and Spinach Bhajis

Monday, 10 October 2011

Vegan MoFo: Liquid Breakfast - Beetroot, Carrot, Orange & Ginger Smoothie

I love smoothies for breakfast. It's the easiest way to hydrate and nourish your body. I got myself a book on juices with the aim to try a different one every day. The difference being, in the recipes only the juice is used, but I'm using the pulp as well, for the fibre and to slow down the absorption of all that fructose! So today it was beetroot, carrot, orange, and ginger. Wowee! I love fresh beetroot, and although the kitchen fairy (aka my sister Sally) wasn't so keen, I loved it. Not too sweet, and that ginger kick was just right. I used two medium beetroot, two large carrots, three oranges, and a thumb sized piece of ginger. I'll be buzzing around all morning....

Something Old, Something New, Something Tried and Something True

Gorgeous Yoshi, wondering what the hell is going on..

Mum, wasn't there a window here...where for the love of catnaps did it go?

Yeah, I know. Where the hell has the spade been? All you've seen is spoon! Well, the beloved and I have taken the plunge and finally re clad and insulated our house. So I thought I'd share with you what's been done, and what's going on at my place at the moment....

Something Old...
Our house is old, it's a dear old house, which we fell in love with the moment we saw it, but it needed some TLC. So we spent the first year doing up the inside, and dreaming about what to do with the outside. Because it's an old fibro house built in the fifties, there was very little insulation. We also have a skillion roof, which means we have 9ft ceilings which slope into about 12ft ceilings. Not good to keep warm in a cold Mountains winter, even after we installed a new slow combustion wood fire heater/stove.

Something New..

So when we finally had the cash to do it (thanks to a bit of inheritance money) we finally decided on something a bit quirky. We had the builders put some blanket insulation over the top of the fibro, and clad with colourbond over the top. Murray came up with the colourbond idea, but I insisted we couldn't clad in blue or green because it would look like a shed. So we chose this lovely warm rustic orange with blue trim (OK, so it sounds hideous, but it works). Murray (being such a clever dick) got some new windows and installed them himself, so the builders came in after he'd done that.

Something Tried
A couple of years a go I found some tea plants at Bunnings. They weren't very big, and the chooks repeatedly dug them up, no matter how much I tried to protect them. In fact, one of our chookies I'm sure would probably be able to get into Fort Knox if she thought there would be something to eat inside. Anyway, after trying them out I gave up, not being able to find any more of them. By chance our local hardware store has just opened up a garden centre out the back. What do I find...but some nice big strong looking tea plants. So we'll be trying to grow our own tea again. since tea is a type of camellia and we already have lots of them, I think these ones will do better than the last ones. I can but try...

And Something True..
Broad beans are now in season in Aussieland, as is asparagus. The early plantings of potatoes that I have oh-so-carefully protected are almost ready for a second layer of mulch. Two beds of garlic are standing proudly big and tall already, the apple is in blossom, the artichokes are reaching for the sky... and the onions have just needed thinning out. There's lots to do!

Our asparagus plants are doing well, and the beans are growing rapidly and have already started flowering. Broad beans are a no fail crop for me, every year I have planted them they have prettily burst into flower and produced masses of pods. Although broad beans are now in season, they can still get quite expensive. Mine are ready to pick when the flush of Spring is fading into Summer and they become harder to get. We eat them fresh, as well as doing some for the freezer and drying out the rest for winter stews and soups. And because they leave the ground much more fertile, I can follow them with winter plantings of broccoli and kale. A winner!