Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Spiced Lentils & Rice with Cumin Flatbread

When the Beloved and I were first married, I used to make this a lot, as it was quick and cheap. Times have changed, and my repertoire is decidedly bigger than it once was. I decided to make it on a whim tonight since I had all the ingredients on hand, and it's nice to come back to an old favourite once in awhile. If you fry off the spices and onion for a minute, you can throw the rest into a rice or slow cooker.

2 cups long grain rice
1 cup cooked brown lentils
1 onion diced
1 cup chopped greens (I used kale as that's what's in my garden at the moment)
1 tsp tumeric
2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot chilli powder (less if you can't handle spicy)
juice of 1 lemon
chicken style stock
mint leaves
vegan sour cream or natural yoghurt to serve
olive oil

For the flatbread
2 cups bakers flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tablespoon oil

Saute onion, garlic, and spices until fragrant and onion is soft.
Bring 4 cups water to the boil, and add stock and rice. Bring to boil and add lentils, onions, and spices.
Simmer until rice has absorbed all the water and fluff up with a fork. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Serve with sour cream/yoghurt, and fresh chopped mint.

For the flatbread, combine all ingredients and add water until you have a firm dough. Knead for  a minute or two, then pinch off golf ball sized pieces and roll out very thin, dusting with flour to stop it sticking.

On a hotplate, drizzle a little oil, and when it begins to smoke, drop a rolled out dough piece, flipping over when the bread begins to puff, and cook the other side. They cook very quickly, less than a minute a side.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ironchef Challenge 3: Sunflower Seed Tart & Red Wine Chilli Jam

I almost didn't do this challenge. I was pretty whacked from a lot of extra time at work, and our weekend was already busy with me at work Saturday morning and knowing we would be out all Sunday. And I desperately needed to get into the garden and plant out all the seedlings. But...I  mulled it over while I was weeding (very therapeutic weeding) and came up with something worthy of a post. We don't eat a lot of mock meats, I don't really see the point, but they certainly have a wow factor these days especially with omnis you want to convert ;) I've used some here, but you could omit it, and use smoked tofu instead.

So the secret ingredients were peppers (chilli), sunflower seeds, and grapes. I decided I wanted to make a chilli jam, and combined the grapes with that in the form of red wine. Hey, it can be in any form right? My initial thought was to have it with vegan cheese and crackers, but then I thought these would make a great canape, so made a mini sunflower seed tart case instead. They came out nutty and perfectly savoury, so anything could go with them really.

For the tart cases
1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup plain flower
1 tablespoon garlic oil
1/4 cup sunflower oil
sea salt flakes

For the jam
1 long red chilli
red wine (I used 500 ml)
500 gr sugar
approx 50gr jamsetta (follow instructions on back of packet)

For the filling
1 chick*n style fillet
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
baby rocket for garnish

In a saucepan combine sugar, chillis, wine, and pectin. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, then turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour into hot sterilised jars and leave to cool.

For the cases, combine flour, sunflower, pumpkin seeds and oil, with a good pinch of salt flakes. Add enough water to bring together to make a dry dough.
Roll out between pieces of baking paper to about 3mm thick.
Using a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds to fit shallow tart tins. flip into tin and bake 180C for approximately 15 minutes, or light brown and crisp.

Shred the veg chick*n and add mayo and a tablespoon of chilli jam, and combine. Spoon into cooled cases, top with a little more jam, some baby rocket, and a few extra toasted sunflower seeds.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Animals Australia Make It Possible Campaign

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. I don't really use my blog as a platform for my political views or opinions, but  really wanted to share an exciting new campaign from Animals Australia -Make It Possible. The ad was launched last night, and already has sparked some pretty heated discussions, not to mention some interesting replies from the meat and egg industries. The fact that one of the supermarket giants has agreed to jump on board and push out their factory farmed products has a whole lot of people pissed off. Well done AA! I just wanted to share some of it with you folks because some of the reactions make me want to laugh, cry, and punch them in the jaw! One in particular I read today was  a comment from the Managing Director of the Australian Egg corporation. 

"Each of the three main egg farming systems has welfare strengths and weaknesses. For example, hens in cages are likely to live longer, be more healthy and are safe from weather and predators. Just like Animals Australia, AECL fully supports greater welfare outcomes for all of our laying hens but we believe science should lead the way, not emotion or self-interest." 

Whaaat! I don't know what planet this man lives on, but I'd like to see these creatures in cages that aren't debeaked; lacking feathers, broken bones, and misshapen feet; that aren't trampled by their cage mates, and have room to stretch, flap their wings, and dust bathe. So Mr Kellaway, where are these magical cages you speak of with these healthy hens? And as for emotion - there are plenty of compassionate people on this Earth mate, and if this ad tugs at the ole heartstrings and encourages people to stop eating meat or stop buying factory farmed products, then it's done its job.

He also said

"The decision should be a consumer's, based on their personal choice and budget. Families shouldn't be manipulated by activists such as Animals Australia, and retailers such as Coles." 

It also seems to have a lot of the vegetarian community divided between vegans and vegetarians, and those that eat meat but want animals treated better. Now, I may annoy some people here, but mouthing off about how much better you are because you are a vegan or vegetarian does not make anyone listen to you. It also detracts from the main focus of the campaign, which is to put an end to factory farms - a HUGE step -and one that perhaps, may lead to even better things. Giving some facts in a calm manner, while filling your opponents mouth with the best darn cupcake they've ever had (which happens to be vegan)  is  much more likely to do some good. Nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me the food I made for them was absolutely delicious while going back for seconds. Except maybe, when people tell me I've inspired them to go veg . This has happened a few times this year, and it makes me go all gooey and want to give the person a smooch full on the lips! 
So, for anyone that would care to comment, how do you promote vegetarianism/veganism and how do people react to you? And check out the ad - it's just plain gorgeous!

What he really means of course is "The decision should be the industry's based on their greed and profit margin. The industry shouldn't be manipulated by activists." The bottom line of course, is improved standards means less profit. I doubt the finances of a family has anything to do with it. And besides which, good food goes a lot further than cheap food..but that's another debate ;) quite obviously, these people are mighty afraid of this campaign, or they wouldn't be so vocal about it!

A spokeswoman from the Pork Industry made the comment that Animals Australia  "doesn't mention any of the world-first progress made by the Australian pork industry." Um, well, der. Why would they? There are still sows in stalls. There are still animals suffering every second of every day. Shouting out about any kind of (slow) progress won't convince anyone to give up on meat now would it? Sheesh! 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Pea & Asparagus Caramelle in Lemon Butter Sauce

I love pasta, and I love making it at home, from scratch. Sometimes though, I just don't have time to make fresh pasta sheets, but still want some homemade stuff. This is where wonton wrappers come in. They are neat little time savers, and you can still put your yummiest fillings in. When the Beloved and I got engaged, one of our gifts was a Jamie Oliver cookbook. In it, he went into much detail about pasta making, and it became an obsession of mine for awhile to perfect it at home. One of the recipes was for ricotta and lemon caramelle. I wanted to make a vegan version with the freshness of that recipe, but make it my own.

1 bunch of asparagus, finely chopped
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons pea and mint pesto
1 packet egg free wonton wrappers
1 lemon
1/4 cup vegan butter
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
ground white pepper
mint leaves

Blanch peas and asparagus, ans set aside to cool. Finely chop.
Add almond meal, pesto, and some ground black pepper, and mix well.
Put a small teaspoon of mixture onto a wonton wrapper, and roll up. Secure ends by pinching so that it looks like a wrapped sweet (hence the name caramelle). you may need to lightly wet to seal along the long edge.
When you have a batch ready to go, gently drop into a deep pan of salted boiling water for approximately two minutes or when pastry is translucent. Drain, and set aside.
To make the sauce, put a scant teaspoon of  lemon zest, the lemon juice, butter, and oil into a small pan. Melt together an mix well, and drizzle over pasta.
serve with fresh young mint leaves, extra peas (and pea shoots if you have them!)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Virgin Sangria

I'm a little behind on my MoFo posts, I missed two last week, and was too tired to attempt the Ironchef challenge, as much as I wanted to. Firstly, I've been way too busy and tired to make anything remotely worthwhile posting. I mean, I really don't think you want to see pictures of avocado and tahini on toast. Plus, I was busy working on the Beloved's birthday cake, which took up a lot of my time last week. So, here's a easy one to get me back into the last full week of Mofo. We had this tonight with nachos, and it was ridiculously yummy if I do say so myself.

Sangria has to be one of my favourite summer drinks. The problem is, it's a bit too good, so it's easy to have more than you should. It also tends to make me a bit too thirsty due to the alcohol, so I end up drinking a heap of water anyway. This one tastes just as good, and you can drink a bucket of it without too much regret :) So break out the tacos, cook some beans, whip up some guacamole and have a Mexican fiesta! 

400 ml pomegranate juice
250 ml cranberry juice
1 orange, juiced with pulp
200ml pineapple juice
250 ml ginger ale
strawberries and frozen cranberries, and slices of orange to serve

Juice the orange with the pulp. I did mine in my blender so it was more of a smoothie. Add all the other ingredients, give it a good stir, and serve in a large jug or punch bowl with slices of strawberries, orange, and frozen cranberries. The cranberries act like ice, without watering down the drink. Word of warning here. Due to some strange reaction I put the orange in the blender with some pomegranate juice and created a fluffy mousse monster. Goodness knows why...so I suggest blending the orange separately and allowing to settle in the fridge before mixing it with everything else! Alternatively you could just use orange juice, but I like the pulp, it gives a better orange flavour.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Spaghetti & Beetballs

These brightly hued tasty morsels are a combo of cooked beetroot, quinoa, almond meal, and a little falafel mix,  with lots of herbs and spices, in a rich tomato sauce. I baked them in the oven, and then poured the sauce over the top. I have no idea what quantities I used, but I used garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to flavour the beetballs. 

The sauce was tomato puree, red wine, italian herbs, and garlic, with cracked black pepper and fresh parsley. I wish I had written down what I did...but I didn't. So until I make them again, you'll have to either try making them yourself, or wait til I actually post a recipe :)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Chopped Challenge: Popcorn Crumbed Pumpkin Hashbrown with Apricot & Beetroot Relish

This post is my crack at Isa's Vegan Chopped Challenge. The participating ingredients are: butternut pumpkin, fresh rosemary, popcorn, and apricot preserves(jam). It has to be a brunch dish, so what is better than ahashbrown? A crumbed hashbrown, with pumpkin! The texture on the outside was lovely and crunchy, and hey, these are gluten free as well!

Hash brown
2 cups fresh popped popcorn, pulsed in food processor to a coarse crumb
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup cooked potato
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground chilli
Oil for frying

1 beetroot, peeled, chopped
1 onion, peeled chopped
1 cup apricot jam
½ cup balsamic vinegar

To make the relish, gently fry onion and beetroot in olive oil until onion is transparent.
Add jam and balsamic vinegar, and cook until beetroot is cooked, and mushy. Set aside to cool.

To make the hash brown, make a thick mash from potato and coarsely chop pumpkin into mixture.
Add spices, mixing well.
Shape into rounds, and roll in popcorn crumbs.
Heat oil in frying pan, and fry hash browns until golden and crisp on each side.
Serve with relish, on wilted greens. Goes great with sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes!

Pumpkin Hotcakes with Spiced Apricot Sauce & Popcorn Praline

This post is my crack at Isa's Vegan Chopped Challenge. The participating ingredients are: butternut pumpkin, fresh rosemary, popcorn, and apricot preserves(jam). It has to be a brunch dish, so this is my attempt at a sweet dish. I was a bit hesitant, because I've never had pumpkin in anything sweet. Nope, nothing. They turned out better than expected, after my head got around the fact I was putting pumpkin in hotcakes. I still don't think I'm ready for pumpkin pie though...

½ cup cooked pureed butternut pumpkin
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup rice milk
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. apricot jam
¼ tsp. cinnamon

Spiced Apricot Sauce
3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons water
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Popcorn Praline
½ cup fresh popped popcorn
225 gr caster sugar
110ml water

Whisk rice milk, flour, and baking powder together, making sure to remove any lumps.
Add jam, cinnamon, and pureed cooked pumpkin, adding a little water if too thick.
Allow to stand for an hour.
Drop spoonfuls into an oiled frying pan, and flip over when bubbles appear. Cook until golden.

In a saucepan, mix caster sugar and water, and stir over low heat until mixture thickens and turns golden.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof and spread the popcorn over it.
Pour hot praline syrup over the top and shake to ensure even distribution.
Allow to cool.

Mix all ingredients in small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Set aside to cool.

To serve, Drizzle sauce over hotcakes, and top with shards of praline.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Australian Lemon Myrtle Dukkah

I know I posted a traditional dukkah recipe not long ago, but this is an Australian one I did as taste testing for a wedding a while ago. The couple decided to go with the traditional dukkah, but the Sprouts & Beans agreed this one was the better of the two. So, inspired by Erin Wiko's Sydney scramble I decided I should make this one again, and post it for MoFo. I used macadamias because they are native to Australia (although many believe they are native to Hawaii, this is incorrect), and I was trying to make a dukkah from as many local/native ingredients at the time.

Making dukkah is very satisfying for me - it doesn't take long but packs a whole lot of flavour. Don't just dip bread into it though, sprinkle it on toast with lots of melted margarine, or add it to breadcrumbs if you're making tofu nuggets. Yummo!

1 cup macadamias
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon lemon myrtle
1/2 tsp mountain pepper (if you can't access this Aussie pepper, black pepper is fine too)
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1/4 tsp garlic flakes

In a dry frying pan, toast each ingredient until fragrant, and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse all ingredients to a coarse crumb.

Serve with olive oil for dipping

Friday, 12 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Snow Day

Unfortunatel, due to a whacky chain of events, I am unable to post anything on food today! For those in the northern hemisphere, this day may not seem so strange, but for Australia, this is pretty unusual!

It all started when I got up this morning and found it snowing! Well, we get the odd snowfall living in the Blue Mountains, but nothing like today. I didn't get very far up the highway and got stuck waiting for about an hour and a half because of an accident. I finally gave up after calling work, and slowly drove back up to my house, skidding everywhere and sliding backwards trying to get up my steep driveway! The snow was falling pretty heavy by then, and although I tried to get a train, they had stopped operating because there was a blackout, and there was signal failure. Fail! I got the woodfire going, but didn't have power until late this afternoon. It was so eerie and quiet with all these trucks parked along the highway, and me walking up the middle of it trying to avoid falling snowdrifts and cracking branches! So that's why there is nof ood post today! But I do have some pretty pictures :)

Our driveway

Poor veg patch...not sure if it will recover, may have to replant

Trees bowed by the weight of the snow

Moko trying to work out what the hell all that white stuff was!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Home Made Soft Taco Shells

We love Mexican food in our house - how could you not being a veg head? All those wholesome bean varieties, salsas, salads, fresh vegies and punchy flavours! Being in Australia, Mexican foods are pretty limited in the way of ingredients apart from Old El Paso sort of kits. But I have found a couple of good Mexican ingredient importers online based in Sydney, so I've been able to order a few things to try. We also ventured a couple of years ago into growing our own tomatillos, as I found some organic seed, and it's not something you can buy at the markets (not that I've ever seen). I was so impressed with them as the following Spring there was a bunch of volunteer plants, so I don't think I'll ever be without them! 

A request for some upcoming catering possibly involves a taco bar. The tortillas in the shop are always a bit too thin, a bit too big, and tend to tear easily. They also taste a little funny, probably from those little sachets they put in to stop them drying out and such. I want a robust taco that can stand up to some fillings! I had a look at some soft taco shell recipes, but couldn't really find anything that wasn't a basic corn tortilla or didn't involve eggs. Strange...maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, or maybe I'm too picky? What the hey, I'll just make up my own and hope for the best!

I made a yeast mixture with some warm water, salt, and sunflower oil. When it went all bubbly I added a half half mixture of bakers flour and masa, and worked it a bit, adjusting until I got the right feel in the dough. Don't ask me for measurements, this is a work in progress! I let the dough sit covered for a couple of hours, and then rolled out balls of dough into about 6 inch rounds, a good size to fit snug in the hand, dusting with masa and piling them up. I even got to use my vintage Indian rolling pin (so I bought it for Indian roti making, but don't judge ok?)

And this is what I ended up with! I fried them off in my wok (the heat distribution always works really well when I make Indian breads this way). The texture reminded me a bit of naan bread, but the taste of corn was definitely prominent. They were soft, a little flaky inside, and much thicker than regular tortillas.  All in all, I was pretty happy with the first try, they didn't break when we folded them over some char grilled corn salsa, beans, and guacamole. When I've perfected it I might post a recipe...

Finally I've got a moment to update this with an actual recipe! Makes approx 15 taco size tortillas.

1 1/4 cups bakers flour
1 cup masa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon sunflower oil (not essential, but easier to work the dough)
approx 1 3/4 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

In a bowl put water, yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Allow to bubble and add flour and masa. Add a little more water if needed. Like any baking, temperature of the day, moisture in the air, and in the flour itself all takes part, so add enough water so that you have a soft and slightly sticky dough.

Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll into a ball. Squish down between your palms and either roll out with a rolling pin or if you have one, put between two pieces of greaseproof paper into a tortilla press...OR you can use the bottom of a heavy saucepan or frying pan and push down. they should be fairly thin, remember they will puff up!

Lightly oil a heavy based frying pan, wok, or even a BBQ hotplate. Cook until toasty one side, most of them puff up when you are ready to flip. Cook off the other side for about a minute. Put them aside and keep warm in a teatowel.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Pea & Mint Pesto

This is  chunky pesto, but it is much lighter than its pine nut cousins, and perfect for Spring. Stir it in risotto, or use it as a dip. Measurements are approximate largely because sometimes lemons are a bit more lemony than others, just like mint is a bit more minty...you know what I mean? The mint I use is a runaway that lurks along our back fence popping up wherever it pleases, and since it's such an old variety it's very strong. I use less oil, and smooth it all out with water to make it lighter. for the same reason I use pumpkin and sunflower seeds because pine nuts can be quite heavy and grainy, and better suited to heartier dishes.

1 cup fresh peas
1 cup baby spinach
1 handful mint leaves
1/3 cup sunflower and pumpkin seed mix, toasted
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup water

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until smooth

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Sticky Date & Salted Pecan Coconut Ice Cream

If you are particularly health conscious or on a diet, look away, this is nor for you! I had been thinking about this ice cream for awhile, but it just wan't warm enough to make and enjoy - I just can't eat ice cream if it's not Spring or Summer! Being warm on the weekend, I thought it was about time I made it. after all, I had my cute vintage ice cream tin! The ice cream maker was already in the freezer, begging to be used, I had my dates and pecans, coconut cream...but somehow completely forgot the cornflour to make the custard. Knowing I could perhaps substitute, I turned everything inside out and upside down to find the packet of tapioca  perused the cupboard and found the tapioca. Mr Sprout pronounced it "pretty wicked" which usually means he would eat a LOT more of it if I let him - it's about the most excited he gets about food :)

2x 540ml tins coconut cream (get the best you can, over 55 % coconut at least)
1 cup rice milk
4 tablespoons ground tapioca
1 vanilla bean
1 cup soaked pitted dates
1 cup pecans
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegan butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Heat coconut cream, rice milk, vanilla bean, and ground tapioca in a large saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture thickens to a pouring custard consistency. Pour into a container and leave in the fridge overnight to cool (If you have any little lumps, use a barmix to whizz it up the next day after removing the vanilla bean).

Soak dates for a couple of hours, strain, and puree with maple syrup, and 3/4 cup water.

Toast pecans in a dry frying pan.

Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan, and when bubbling, turn off heat and toss through pecans and salt.
Place pecans onto some greaseproof paper and separate with a fork to dry.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, stir through the pureed dates, and pecans into the coconut custard mixture, and pour into ice cream maker. When it has thickened up and won't churn anymore, tip into a container and put in the freezer to finish hardening up.

When ready to serve sit out on the bench for about 20 minutes beforehand if it is a bit too hard. For me, the first day was ok, but the next night it was a little hard. This may have been because I'd left it out and it had gone a little runny before I put it back in the freezer!

PS The vintage tin worked a treat, think it's better than using a plastic tub!

Vegan MoFo: Ajvar

I won't lie to you. I've been making quite a bit ahead of schedule, and keeping it to post simply because of nights like tonight. Because life gets in the way of cooking - like a late night at work, such as tonight, with the I-can't-be-assed-it's been-a-long-day feeling. When you can't be bothered eating a proper meal, so it ends up being dip and crackers. So tonight's post is quite a good one, because it's something to be made and bottled, and poured over some vegies and rice, or pasta when all you can do is open a jar,  Chicken Tonight ain't an option because you're a vego, and tinned tomatoes won't do.

A few months back the Beloved and I were in our local greengrocer when we stumbled upon a jar of ajvar. It wasn’t local (Croatian import) but we had never tried it and it looked delicious. We decided we would try it on pizza instead of tomato paste – oh boy, I think it was the best pizza we ever had! It was pretty pricey though, over $10.00 for a 350ml jar. So, I decided I needed to make it ourselves in summer, when we could roast our own capsicums. However, dreaming of possibly swimming in vats of the stuff, and finding the remains of a big-ass jar of roasted capsicums lurking in the outside fridge (can’t even remember what it was bought for) I decided I would make a cheats ajvar and see how it went before using our own precious produce.

Well…it was pretty darn good! Not having a recipe, and going by the ingredients list on the back of the last jar, I winged it. Sweet and savoury, a little smoky, tangy from the vinegar, I think I got it right. Had some on some crackers with some vegan cream cheese, and was planning n keeping some for a pizza night...but it may just be with pasta tonight :)

400gr roasted capsicums
1 clove roasted garlic
1 large tablespoon mixed herbs
¼ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch salt

Blend ingredients in a blender, and pour into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and allow to reduce to a thick sauce/paste. Cool, and put into a jar. It should keep for a couple of weeks with a little oil on the top to stop the air getting to it, but I doubt you’ll worry, it won’t last that long!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I thought this year I wouldn't post about cooking food on Sundays, but write about growing it! Since it's Spring for those of us in the Southern hemisphere, I'm pretty busy raising seedlings, thinning out, and re-potting but I do have the opportunity also to enjoy everything bursting into life. Our house is an old one, and our garden has a lot of old fashioned sorts of things in it. Beneath our espaliered apple tree are glodioli, and mint that pops up everywhere along the back fence. I don't mind it, but it must have escaped a long time ago, as it is very pungent, and every time Mr Sprout uses the whipper snipper you can smell it through the whole yard!

The japonica on the left has nearly finished it's display, but the pink and white rhododendron next to it has come out his week, and it happens to be my favourite out of the six or seven we have in the garden.

This year, there is quite a bit of blossom on both our cherry trees, and I'm hoping if I net them quickly enough we might just get a punnet or two of bright red fruit in November! Last year the birds got them...

These beds were all installed by Mr Sprout, and Mrs Sprout (that's me) plants them out every year. You can't quite see all of them but there are 12, plus the big one up top, plus a couple more elsewhere. I already have corn seedlings in the top bed, as well a spinach, kale, and volunteer potatoes cropping up.

This is one of my favourite nooks in the garden. Japanese maples, and azaleas, and something else with pretty pink and white blossom that I just can't remember what it is at the moment!

Romanesco broccoli seedlings have been planted with marigolds this year to break up an otherwise boring bed, and to repel some pests. Alas, they don't repel next door's cats, who think it's perfectly acceptable to toilet in my garden!

Shallots, celery, and heartsease, the pretty purple and yellow flowers pop up everywhere and I let it because it's such a cheerful little plant and the ladybugs seem to like it.

Tomato seedlings thinned out again, and here they will remain until they are mildly pot bound and ready to plant out. I have some early ones already in the beds, but will hold these  ones back probably until November when I know the last frost has been and gone. With any luck, Mr Sprout will have relocated the chickens by then, and their previous home will become my greenhouse. Hint hint Beloved... Tomatoes are a staple in our patch, and this year I hope to get a decent crop for bottling and drying. There is nothing like pulling out a jar of preserves, some dried beans, and herbs in the middle of winter for dinner, and knowing it all came from your own backyard. What do you plant?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ironchef Challenge # 1: Beetroot Mini Cobs with Caramelised Beet & Onion Mayo

The colour peeping out from the slash I made before baking - so pretty!
Sauteed mushroom, kale, and caramelised beetroot & onion mayo in the mini cob
I love beetroot! Fresh beetroot that is, roasted, juiced, pickled, pureed...just don't give me a tin of Golden Circle slices. Too sugary and unbeetroot. So I was tickled the pink of beet upon discovering this week's Ironchef secret ingredient!

I baked today listening to Edith Piaf which didn't seem quite right with a German style bread - perhaps I should have been listening to Beethoven. But I digress. Being Oktoberfest, I thought it would be a good idea to do a pretzel sort of cob...but with - you guessed it - beetroot. Recipes I've tried to make pretzels with before seem to be lacking a bit on the sweet side, or too much salt, or not enough liquid, or just too small... so I used the juice to colour and subtly sweeten the bread.They turned out great, better than I expected. Not tasting of beetroot, just an earthy sweetness, and a beautiful colour. The pulp I reserved from juicing, and I caramelised with onion and cumin to make a relish to swirl into mayo.  We had these with some sauteed mushrooms, kale leaves, and a generous dollop of the beet mayo.  A good vego sausage patty or vegie burger would be pretty tasty too!  Now, if only I could figure out how to make beetroot beer...

Dough rising in bowl

Cob Ingredients (makes 6 mini cobs)
3 1/2 -4 cups bakers flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt plus extra tsp
1 cup  fresh beetroot juice (I used 2 large beetroot and got 1 1/4 cups) 
3/4 cup rice milk or water
3 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup bicarb soda
salt crystals (optional)

1. Heat the beetroot juice and rice milk (or water) until lukewarm. Add the oil, salt, and yeast, stir, and leave aside until mixture bubbles.
2. Make a well in the centre of 3/12 cups of the flour, pour in the yeast mixture, and with a wooden spoon, bring in flour to centre and mix. 
3. Turn out onto floured surface, and oil your hands (this prevents the dough sticking to you, plus drying out your skin!)
4. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add a bit more flour if it is too sticky (when I made this I probably used closer to 4 1/4 cups flour because the humidity was so high).
5. Put into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside until doubled in size. This may take 1-2 hours depending on the temperature. I set mine on top of a propagating heat mat and it took about 50 minutes. (You can put the oven on for five minutes, turn off, and then leave the door ajar with the dough inside to speed things up).
6. Punch down and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide dough into 6 portions and form into cobs. Place on a lined tray, and allow to rise again until double. 

I can't tell you how bright the dough was - the photo just doesn't capture it!

7. Turn on oven to 190C to preheat, and set a large saucepan of water on the stove to boil. Fill the saucepan about 2/3 full.
8. When water is boiling, drop in salt and bicarb - watch out it froths!
9. Carefully drop the cobs in one at a time to poach, about a minute and a half on each side. Remove carefully and set on greaseproof lined baking trays, a few centimetres apart. 
10. Slash the top in a cross with a sharp knife, and sprinkle salt crystals on top if you wish (the salt makes them a bit pretzel like).
11. Place in the oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes, until dark brown, and set on a wire rack to cool.

Caramelised Beet & Onion Mayo- Ingredients
1 cup beetroot pulp
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup beetroot juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 cup vegan mayonnaise (you can make your own or shop bought)

1.On low heat, melt butter into oil in a heavy based pan.
2. Add cumin and onion, and stir gently until translucent. 
3. Add beet pulp, juice, vinegar, and sugar. 
4. Stir gently on low heat until caramelised and onion is very soft. Takes about 1/2 hour. Put into a clean jar and allow to cool.
5. When cool, stir into mayonnaise.

The colour of the bread - a beautiful deep pink!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Satay Mushroom Skewers

Skewers, kebabs, kebobs, whatever you call them, omnivores seem to have a puzzled look when you tell them you're having  having skewers. And you're vegetarian  "But what do you put on them if you don't eat meat?" Man, can't these people think of something other than the bits of the decaying corpse of a poor cow? 

Since it's Friday, and I'm pretty beat, I won't be posting a recipe . But if you have some button mushrooms, some cherry tomatoes, and are armed with a great vegan satay sauce, you have a skewer.  I marinated the mushrooms first, and cooked them whole to get super juicy before I skewered them to grill. They go great with jasmine rice, but would be just as good on their own with a side of salad.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Spring Vegetable Couscous with Garlic Butter & Almonds

I'm currently inspired by spring vegetables. The winter seemed so long this year for us in the southern hemisphere, and I'm gobbling up fresh young asparagus and broccolini and enjoying every bite! It was a pretty simple dinner, but I think the best ones often are. This made enough for 4 serves - dinner, and leftovers for lunch.

cous cous for 4 serves
vegetable stock
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed
1 spring onion
a few handfuls rocket and baby spinach
approximately 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/4 cup vegan butter/margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
lemon wedges to serve
salt and pepper to taste

Cook cous cous in vegetable stock according to packet directions, set aside and keep warm.
In a large frying pan or wok, heat butter and oil on medium heat, and add garlic, sliced spring onion, and almonds, stirring for about half a minute.
Add asparagus, and broccolini, and stir fry for a minute or so until bright green, but don't over cook.
Turn off heat, throw in rocket and baby spinach, and allow to wilt.
Serve over cous cous with plenty of cracked black pepper and a little salt to taste.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Smoky Paprika Baked Beans

Ok, so I know it’s just baked beans – but these are real baked beans, not the too sweet with no flavour ones from a can (sorry Heinz, but it’s true). Although baked beans on toast can be a fallback for vegos eating breakfast out, it always amazes me cafes don’t go to the trouble of making their own – it’s so easy! Plus, often if they do, it’s made with chorizo or ham hock in it –yerk. If you make a big batch, put some in some sterilised jars and preserve them. If you have some jars - wash, and put them in a preheated 120C oven for five minutes to sterilise, and fill while beans and jars are hot – don’t burn yourself! If you screw the (metal) lid on and turn upside down for 10 minutes to cool, this should create a vacuum and seal your jars when you turn the right way up. Voila! Easy tasty beans for breakfast!

2 cups dried white beans
1 large brown onion
2 cloves garlic
2 litres beef style stock
3 bayleaves (fresh if possible, makes such a difference)
200 ml tomato puree
3 tablespoons tomato paste
60ml vegan worcestshire sauce
60 ml balsamic vinegar
1 heaped tablespoon smoked paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper
Cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried mixed herbs

Soak the beans for a minimum of three hours, rinse, and drain well.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, sauté onions and garlic until translucent.
Add beans, and cover with vegetable stock, bring to a simmer.
Add remaining ingredients, and leave to simmer, topping up occasionally as necessary with boiling water and/or more stock, until beans are tender (this can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on how long you soak your beans).
Allow to reduce until beans are sitting in a thick sauce.
Serve with some good toast, like sourdough or rye.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Balsamic Strawberry, Asparagus & Chickpea Salad

Strawberries and asparagus are two of my favourite things – and both are ridiculously cheap and in season at the moment. The glut of strawberries has seen some farmers feeding them to cattle! But although the chookies have been getting the scraps, mine are going in this seriously easy and seriously yummy salad. Definitely a Spring winner!

1 punnet strawberries, hulled, and cut into quarters
2 bunches of asparagus spears, trimmed and blanched
1 400gr tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Bunch of rocket, washed, dried
Bunch of baby spinach washed, dried
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
Fresh mint and chives, finely chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch sea salt

Mix vinegar, oils, and salt and pour over strawberries. Leave to macerate for a couple of hours, at room temperature, covered. The salt draws out the juice into what will be the salad dressing.
When you are ready to serve, add herbs and pepper to strawberries.
Toss remaining ingredients into a large salad bowl, remove strawberries from vinegar mixture and toss through. Drizzle dressing over the top and serve immediately.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Date & Pecan Toast with Lavender Syrup

I don't know why people get so scared about making bread. It is so easy, all you need is a little practice. I had a whole bag of pitted dates in the cupboard, and a bag of organic Australian pecans that were begging to be used. This was afternoon tea toast - not too sweet, perfect with a cup of tea. The lavender syrup is reminiscent of the floral tones of honey, but not as sweet. The Beloved gave it the thumbs up, so it must be good!


3 cups bakers flour 

250ml warm water

250ml warm milk  (soy, almond, rice, take your pick!)
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup chopped pecans

Put water, milk yeast, sugar oil and salt into a large bowl,and whisk. Leave aside in a warm place for about 5-10 minutes to let the yeast activate (you should see it bubbly at the top).
Put into an other bowl the flour, pecans, dates, and cinnamon. Make a well in the centre and add ¾ of your liquid mixture, slowly drawing in from around the sides. Keep going with the liquid, if it feels too dry add more water, if it is too sticky add more flour. It should be a nice soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, it should become smooth and elastic. Place into a greased bowl, cover, and set aside. Leave in a warm place for about an hour and a half. ( If it’s really cold and I don’t have the fire on, I turn the oven on for 15 minutes to about 150C, turn off, leave the door open half way, and stick the bowl inside). 

Punch down, and knead for a few minutes. Shape into an oblong, and put into a greased loaf tin. Allow to rise again until doubled in size (this can take anything form 45 minutes to two hours depending on how warm the room is. Put in 1a preheated oven at 180C for approximately 30 minutes, or when loaf is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then turn onto a rack.

For the syrup -
1 cup rice syrup
Approximately seven lavender heads, washed and dried* 

*Don't use lavender from the florist, they have probably been sprayed! If you aren't lucky enough to have a lavender bush, or a nanna to steal some from, make sure if you buy some that they are unsprayed!


In a saucepan, gently bring to heat the syrup and lavender. turn off heat as it begins to bubble, and let it steep for several hours, or overnight. Remove flowers, and keep in a sealed jar. 

Serve thick slices toasted with lots of vegan margarine and lashings of syrup.