Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Chargrilled Sweet Chilli Mango and Tofu Salad

Mangoes are absolutely delicious and in season at Christmas for us Aussies. This is a very substantial salad that could either be a main or side. Chargrill them to make them even sweeter!

4 firm mangoes, cut into slices 5mm thick
1 block firm tofu cut into thick slices
1 small bunch spring onions, finely chopped
3 carrots julienned
4 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 bunch kale finely shredded
1/2 cup sweet chilli sauce
1/4 cup white tahini
1/4 cup black tahini
1/4 cup sunflower seeds toasted
Gsarlic infused olive oil to drizzle

Toss tofu in sweet chilli sauce, and chargrill, set aside.
Chargrill mango slices, set aside to cool
Whrn ready to serve, toss kale, tomatoes, carrot, and onion with tofu and mango.
Drizzle both tahinis over the top and sprinkle sunfloer seeds over.
Finish with a drizzle of garlic olive oil.
Serve immediately.

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Lemon Myrtle Hasselback Potatoes

I won't have any choice but to make potatoes dauphinoise for Christmas this year (siblings and husband expect it!) but I do really like hasselbacks - they look pretty, crisp nicely, and you can put all sorts of flavourings on them. If you fancy some Aussie flavoured ones try some lemon myrtle - it gives them a lovely little tang and these also pair really well with the vegie ribbon tart

Washed roasting potatoes skin on (allow 1 1/2 potatoes per person minimum)
sunflower oil
sea salt flakes
lemon myrtle dried

Cut potatoes in half, and then put cut side down. Using a sharp knife make vertical cuts a few millimetres apart leaving about 1 cm uncut at the bottom. 
Place on a baking tray and drizzle with sunflower oil, sea salt flakes and lemon myrtle. 
Bake at 180C for approximately 40 - 50 minutes until golden and crisp. 

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Vegan Vegie Ribbon Tart

I have seen vegetable ribbon tarts done a few times but always it is more of a quiche type thing, and not vegan. I can't say I've ever had a really good vegan "quiche" that involves silken tofu. I don't know why, it just doesn't do it for me. This tart is made using a thick silky "custard" using non dairy milk and flour to thicken it, flavoured with onion and thyme. It is based on a very thick white sauce. When baked it sets very well, just allow it to cool a bit before serving. It shouldn't be piping hot - just warm, or it can be cooled completely and served cold. I used sweet potato and zucchini, but you could use any vegetable easily sliced into ribbons like beetroot, parsnips, swedes, or carrots. Bake in a loose bottomed flan tin for easy removal.

Base - Savoury Shortcrust Pastry
2 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
125gr vegan butter, softened and cut into cubes
pinch salt
pinch ground pepper
cold water

Sift flour, cornflour, salt, and pepper into a large bowl.
Rub butter through flour using your finger tips until it resembles large breadcrumbs.
Add 1 tablespoon of water and draw mixture together into a ball. If it is still too dry, add water a teaspoon at a time until it holds together.
Roll out and press into your greased tin. Trim edges.
Place in freezer for at least an hour. If you are making ahead cover in clingfilm and leave in freezer until ready to bake.
Blind bake in a 180C preheated oven for 12 minutes, and then remove, and put aside.

2 zucchini
1 sweet potato
1 1/4 cups non dairy milk
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons vegan butter
1 tablepoon dijon mustard
1 small onion
1 heaped teaspoon chicken style stock
1 tablespoon dried thyme

1.Cut zucchini and sweet potato into ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. Blanch ribbons in boiling water for a couple of minutes until just softening. Drain and set aside to cool.
2.onion and saute until softened, and set aside.
3.Arrange vegetable ribbons in a circular fashion in pastry base leaving a bit of a gap for the custard to settle in between and support the ribbons.
4.In a small sauce pan on low heat melt butter and then add flour to form a roux. Add milk slowly whisking vigorously to ensure no lumps as it thickens. Add stock, mustard, and onion, and using a hand blender puree until onion has blended. Add thyme, and keep stirring for a few minutes on low heat  to cook out the flour.
5.Pour mixture over vegetable ribbons, gently spreading over the top and pushing to ensure mixture falls between ribbons.
6.Bake in 180C oven for 20 minutes until  pastry is golden.
7.Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from tin and cutting into wedges to serve.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Mini Savoury Cranberry Pies

If you haven't made that cranberry relish then you had better plan on making some to assemble these scrumptious little bites of Christmas! you will need a batch of quinoa mince which you can find the recipe for here. I often make a big batch of quinoa mince and portion it to freeze , so if you have done that too these will take no time at all if you leave it in the fridge overnight to thaw! I use a small tartcase tray that bakes 12 to each one. You can get 9 pies out of each pastry sheet using an 8 cm cutter. 

Savoury shortcrust pastry sheets
Puff pastry sheets
Quinoa 'mince'
cranberry relish

Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease tin.
Using a biscuit cutter cut out shortcrsut pastry circles for the bottom of the pie. Place one circle in each hole and gently press down and up the sides.
Take a heaped teaspoon of quinoa mince and put in bottom of pie bottom, and then take a scant teaspoon of cranberry relish to top it.
using the same size biscuit cutter cut out a puff pastry circle for the lid. Brush the edges of the bottom case with water, and place the puff pastry circle on top of the pie. Press firmly around the edges to seal, and then using a sharp small knife put two slits in the top of the lid.
When your tray is full bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
If you haven't used defrosted quinoa mince then you can freeze these in an airtight container with baking paper between the layers to keep for up to a month.
to reheat place on a lined tray in the oven 

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Cranberry and Onion Relish

Ok, so granted, you can buy any old jar of cranberry sauce...but there is something about making your own relish which is a lot more hearty, tasty, and of course made with love. I've made this so many times now I can almost do it in my sleep! there is almost always a pot of it in the fridge to be had with hot buttered toast for a more savoury jam substitute, or to spoon onto savoury tarts. For the omnivores out there you may be wondering why someone who doesn't tuck into a turkey's corpse would be interested in cranberry relish. It tastes divine on crackers with almond or cashew cheese, its scrumptious tossed in fried mushrooms, or spooned over a vegetable terrine with gravy. Make a big batch, bottle it and give it away as Christmas pressies. The longer it sits the better the flavour becomes just like a good sweet fruit mince.

500 gr frozen cranberries
2 cups raw sugar
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup water
2 large chopped red onions
1 garlic clove crushed
bunch of fresh sage or thyme, chopped
juice and zest of an orange
pinch salt
oil for frying

1.In a large heavy bottomed saucepan gently saute chopped onion and crushed garlic  in a little oil until translucent. Add chopped thyme and fry for another minute or two to release the oils and aroma.
2.Increase to a medium heat and add all other ingredients, and stir until sugar is dissolved.
3.Turn heat down and simmer until cranberries collapse and mixture has reduced to a very thick consistency.
4.Spoon into sterilised jars and leave to cool. Best kept in fridge if you do not seal the jars, and keep in fridge once opened.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Rose Pistachio & Date; & Mocha Truffles

I'm not even going to pretend these are healthy for you. But then Christmas is about little indulgences isn't it? These guys are vegan and gluten free (but not taste free). The use of cacao butter in the pistachio ones gives a delicate chocolate taste to these Persian inspired morsels. If you're a coffee lover like my husband you'll love the mocha truffles dark, slightly bitter from the dark chocolate and not overly sweet.

Rose, Pistachio, & Date Truffles
1 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon rosewater
1/2 cup dates chopped
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2/3 cup cacao butter
1 tablespoon sugar

1.Mix almond meal, dates, pistachios and rosewater in a large bowl.
2.Melt cacao butter and sugar in a small sausepan over low heat, and then pour over almond meal mixture.
3.Stir well to combine, and allow to cool until easily handled.
4.Roll into bite sized balls, and then place in an airtight container in the fridge to set. Makes approximately 24.

Mocha Truffles
1 cup hazelnut meal
2/3 cup good quality sweetened dark chocolate
2 tablespoons coffee essence
1/4 cup dairy free milk
1 tablespoon sugar

1. In a saucepan over a low heat, mix together chocolate, milk, coffee essence, and sugar until chocolate is melted.
2. In a large bowl put in hazelnut meal and pour in chocolate mixture.
3.Stir well to combine, and allow to cool until easily handled.
4.Roll into bite sized balls, and then place in an airtight container in the fridge to set. Makes approximately 24.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Twelve Posts of Christmas: Fresh Mixed Pea Salad in Apple and Mint Dressing

Once again I'm doing the Twelve Posts of Christmas! I hope to have twelve Christmas food related posts up before Christmas Day so you can try them out and maybe make them for the day itself. Of course, you can still see my previous posts from the last two years, and it may not be too late to soak some fruit for a delcious vegan and gluten free fruit mince or  age a plum pudding

If it doesn't rain again this Christmas and it is sunny and hot for those of us Down Under, a cooked heavy meal isn't very appetising. Why not try a lovely crisp fresh mixed pea and rocket salad with an apple and mint dressing ? Even if you are having baked potatoes or a vegan potato dauphinoise this should lighten it up for you :)

2 cups snow peas
2 cups sugar snap peas
2 cups rocket
2 granny smith apples
juice and zest of 1 lemon
big bunch of fresh mint
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
1/2 cup water
freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt flakes to taste

1. Wash rocket and peas, and dry.
2. Tail peas
3. Core apple and chop into chunks, set aside.
4. Zest and juice lemon
5. Using a blender or bamix, whizz up apple, lemon juice and zest, mint, and water,.
6. In a large bowl toss dressing through rocket and peas, drizzle with flax seed oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Home Made Broad Bean Falafel & Pita Bread

I'm back! After an almost two month hiatus after Vegan MoFo I've finally got my mojo back. I'm not sure if I will participate next year, I found this year a bit draining, and I didn't enjoy it as much. I also found the lack of Google Reader really annoying and I felt like I probably missed out on some really great posts. The Random MoFo thingy for some reason kept taking me back to a few particular blogs... not that they weren't great but I like to try and have at least one look at everybody. Anyways, enough whingeing.

Like we do every year, we grow broad beans, which were in plentiful supply to us so that I forgot to freeze a shelled half kilo of them(d'oh!) . However, when I pulled the plants up I harvested the rest and these have been outside drying out in their pods. I decided to use some today to make some gluten free broad bean falafel. For some reason so many of the mixes and recipes I've seen aren't gluten free so  I decided to just make it. Now don't get me wrong, I like chick peas, but I like the Egyptian broad bean falafel a lot better. We don't use this humble bean enough! I fear the poor broad bean gets left at the back of the shelf too often while the chickpea gets flung about and used like the village bicycle. What a floosie.

When I began looking at different recipes I found so many people used tinned chickpeas, flour, and eggs to make it at home. What's with that? Tinned chickpeas are way too soft to give a good felafel texture, and if made correctly you DO NOT NEED FLOUR OR EGGS!!! Sounds like a pikelet mixture to me.

Anyway with a lack of a decent recipe I had to come up with my own.

I also wanted to make my own pita bread to have warm and fresh, and some other yummy fillin's and fixin's like hummus and tabbouleh. 

I wanted to make a gluten free tabbouleh so I used my old friend the millet seed. I've seen plenty of recipes of late for quinoa in salads who is currently to the food world what One Direction is to music. I can't believe I just wrote about One Direction in a blog post. But you know what I mean, it's trendy,  its popular, its everywhere (although us vegans have been eating it long before the hipsters did). Millet on the other hand lies old and forgotten like the daggy Kamahl record covered in dust at the back of Vinnies.  So back to millet I go! I like to add a little orange zest to the tabbouleh, and use char grilled tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes to give it a slightly smoky flavour.

Falafel Ingredients
225 gr dried podded broad beans
75 gr dried chickpeas
75 gr sunflower seeds
75gr sesame seeds
1 small onion
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup water

1.For a quicker falafel I simmered the broad beans and chickpeas in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, and then left aside to cool. Traditionally these are soaked overnight, but I wanted it now! They were just softening but still very firm. You don't want these to end up as a pot of hummus, you want a gritty texture.
2.In a food processor put in all the ingredeints except the water and pulse until you have a very coarse breadcrumb appearance. Add a little water after each pulse to help it a long. You should have a very thick mixture that easily sticks together.
3.Shape portions of the mixture to your desired size (I got 8 large falafels, but you could make them smaller for appetisers).
4.Heat some sunflower oil in a frying pan for shallow frying, and then fry falafels until dark golden on each side. Put them on a oven tray and put them in the oven at 100C to keep warm until you are done cooking them all.

Pita Bread Ingredients
2 cups bakers flour
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt

1.If you have a stand mixer you can use your dough hook and place all ingredients in the bowl and leave until dough centres around the hook and comes away from the sides of the bowl (adjusting liquid if necessary). If you are doing it by hand, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour wet ingredients in the middle. Using a spoon gradually incorporate the flour into the middle until all mixed, and then turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth. 
2.To cook the pita, take pieces about 1/4 cup in size, and then roll out very thin, almost to the point where it would break. Dust with flour if you have to to prevent it sticking to your workbench.
On a very hot BBQ plate, or an iron skillet (or in my case, my iron wok-of-all-work) spray lightly with oil, and cook until "bubbles" appear or it puffs up. Flip over and cook the other side. It takes about a minute for the first side, and maybe 30 =40 seconds for the second side. It's important to use as a hot a surface as possible. Of course traditionally pita breads are baked, but there's no way a home oven could get hot enough to bake it so it puffs. This is the same method I use to make naan and tortillas and it works great.

Millet & Kale Tabbouleh Ingredients
1/2 cup millet
1 big bunch of flat parsley
1 big handful mint
2-3 large kale leaves
juice of 1 lemon
1 Lebanese cucumber
4 large tomatoes - deseeded, chargrilled, and cooled
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
1 tsp orange zest

Chargrill seeded tomatoes and set aside to cool. When cool chop finely, and set aside.
Cook millet in a pan of boiling water according to packet directions and set aside to cool.
Finely chop parsley, kale and mint. If you are making a lot pulse it a few times in the food processor its much quicker!
Dice cucumber.
Assemble tabbouleh by placing all ingredients in a large bowl and tossing until well mixed.

We had our falafel in the fresh pita with the tabbouleh, some corn cous cous, coconut yoghurt and freshly blitzed hummus. You could also add extra chilli, tahini, or garlic sauce if you wanted to. It was delicious! If you wanted a gluten free meal just omit the pita bread and eat the falafel with the corn cous cous and all the extras :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Week 2 Juicefeast: Weightloss and Eating

This weeks's fruit bowl (I've already made a dent in it, it was fuller than this) Also have the fridge full and freezer has frozen mango and berries

Monday's menu

It's Week 2, and despite a blip on Sunday I'm doing fantastic this second week. Sunday was a free day. The first bite of mushrooms and toast was a little strange after six days of nothing but juice and smoothies. I ate a lot less than what I usually would, and was actually craving fruit, rather than cooked food when it was my designated day off. I wasn't having anything too bad until it got to dinner time and we had palak paneer. Oh my.... within 20 minutes my sinuses were blocked, I had to keep blowing my nose and clearing my throat. My tummy did not thank me for the foreign matter and consequently Sunday night wasn't a terrific sleep. Cheese is definitely a no no for me (not that I eat it often as we eat predominantly vegan). After having such clean food clearly dairy is not a substance I should ingest! You would have thought I would have learnt by now I cannot digest dairy, but no! I wonder if I have finally learnt my lesson?

Yesterday was much better, I had 4 litres of juices starting with mango, carrot, and pineapple; then beet, celery, and orange; a smoothie of bananas and greens, and strawberry, blackberry, and pink grapefruit. Today I made my juices, but wasn't hungry until about 11.30 when I had watermelon, orange and beet juice. I did have two cups of green tea when I woke up, but I don't believe in eating if you don't feel hungry, so I didn't. 

Workouts: Quite a lot of the material I've read doesn't recommend intense workouts while juicing. But I feel I have so much energy I really wanted to workout, and since I'm also doing smoothies I didn't think it was a bad thing. I started running again last week after a two week hiatus. I do interval running using Yuri Elkaim's Treadmill Trainer. Yuri's programs are very achievable whatever level fitness you are at and I get results quite quickly. I love having someone in my ear encouraging me the whole way through and watching the time for me. It's like having a personal trainer on your iPod!

Normally when starting after a break I jog the first three phases of increasing intervals at speed 7, and drop to a 6.5 for the last four minute interval (its meant to be light jogging so this is reasonable when you start running again). Last week, first time back on the treadmill and I was running at an 8 the whole way. I wasn't even breathing heavy, and felt like I could do the workout all over again. I didn't, pushing too hard is not a good idea!! The next day I ran at a 9 for the first three phases, and dropped to an 8 for the last phase! I'm not sore, and it felt pretty amazing. Fruit is definitely my optimum fuel, and juicing agrees with me. Beetroot juice two hours before a workout seems to give the best performance. Beetroot juice is supposed to be good for blood flow, maybe that's why?

Weight loss: After two weeks, one eating mainly raw, and last week's juicefeast I have lost exactly 6kg. I've also lost 2 1/2 inches off my bust, and 2 inches off my navel. The Beloved has told me my tummy is looking flatter which is fantastic. Maybe I can get into that bikini again when we have holidays in February :)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Day 5 Juicefeast & A Life Without Kev

As I sit here and type, green juice in hand, I can scarce believe I've made it 5 days without Kev.  I'm not talking about Kevin Rudd here folks (although believe me, with Tony at the helm of our government I'm missing Kev as well) , I'm talking about a cuppa tea. When I planned this juice feast I said to the Beloved "I can't give up tea!" Actually, I didn't really say it, more like wailed it while waving my arms about as if I was guiding a plane to land. The thought of doing without my most beloved of beverages was daunting. But I really wanted to cut out everything to give my body a break and a chance to do some healing. So I bit the bullet, and went cold tofurkey. From everything that I had read about juicefeasting, the third day is supposedly the worst. No, no, no, no, no. The second was the worst for me - I was sleepy, headachey, getting cravings, and where for the love of kale was a bloody cup of tea? I stuck it out with peppermint tea instead, and took a nap. 

The third day was much better, I was feeling clearer, my lips which had been very dry and cracked the previous week due to some dry weather had totally healed up overnight. I can't explain it, they've never healed that quickly before. The pain in my feet which I've been having for the last couple of months when I first get up was about half as bad as usual. By this morning, I could actually walk almost properly instead of hobbling about like a granny for a few minutes.

I've been drinking between 3-4 litres of juice daily, as well as water and herb tea. I made it a point to have each juice a different colour and incorporate as many different fruits and vegetables as possible.  I made the decision that I needed at least one of my 1 litre drinks to be a smoothie rather than just juice as I believe I need the fibre, so I've also been having a banana or two in my green. I started today with a beetroot based juice with watermelon, grapefruit, and orange  - my head feels very clear and I'm off to the gym later for my first run in two weeks. We'll see how that goes as I've just finished a kale, celery, and banana smoothie. I have an avocado and asparagus smoothie with orange juice for after the gym, and I will slurp my mango, carrot, and orange juice tonight while the Beloved has his Friday pizza (he isn't doing this with me).

I'm feeling very proud that I've managed to keep this up all week, AND make the Beloved his dinner without falling into temptation. I think my will is rock hard at this point, so making a pizza isn't going to phase me, as I'm feeling full most of the time, and actually craving my next juice when I'm feeling hungry.

Weightloss? I have lost some, but I'm refraining from jumping on until Monday when I can have a 7 day assessment and get out the tape measure as well. Next week I will phase into mostly smoothies, as I personally think juicefeasting continuously isn't good long term, but it is a great way to jumpstart. We need that fibre!

Anybody else juicefeasted before, or doing one at the moment?

Monday, 30 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Juice Feasting and Gazpacho Juice

The last week of MoFo was hard for me. I didn't post as much, I was feeling pretty run down, but also uber excited about helping with the wedding of the lovely John and Emma from Sweets Workshop  last Saturday. Thanks to some indulgent eating through the month, overeating at the wedding (how could I not?) and a few late nights, I am feeling quite the granny. I'm hoping the juicing will promote some good healing in my body, I've been suffering from bad joint pain throughout my feet on waking and if I've been sitting for awhile, and since I detest going to the doctor so much, I hope maybe its just a flag my body is waving at me telling me to take care of it better. 

Last time I went raw for a whole month I slept better, felt better, and lost 7kg. I'm not sure why I didn't continue with it, maybe I just wasn't ready. This time, I've decided to try a juice feast to try and do some serious healing in my body, and maybe I can get back on track. My aim is at least 21 days, but if I feel that I should extend at the end of that, I may go longer. 

But what is a juice feast you may ask, and how is it different to a juice fast? Basically, the aim of a juice fast is to restrict calorie intake, but a juice feast is about abundance - the aim is at least 3-4 litres of fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juice per day. The Beloved isn't doing it with me, but seems to be ok with me making him a really big salad for dinner with something really easy on the side so I don't have the torture of cooking something I can't eat. 

Yesterday was my first day, and I was still feeling pretty whacked out from the weekend. I drank about 3 litres over the day, and ended up having a nap in the afternoon (which I never do!) I'm still feeling pretty ordinary today, and expect to remain this way for a few more days before I perk up again. 
I did have a really nice gazpacho juice for lunch from Vegetable Juices by Joanna Farrow that I picked up a year or two ago, I'll be using it a lot to keep the juicing interesting and also to make sure I have as much different produce as possible. So here goes, wish me luck! 

Vegan MoFo 2013: Some of My Favourites

Well, MoFoers, MoFo 2013 is almost at an end. I put down my spoon, wash my dishes, and hang up my apron. I'm on a juice feast for the next while,  as I'm not feeling that great. I've been a bit overindulgent of late (read: naughty things I know I shouldn't eat but ate anyway) and need to reboot my digestion. So you may not see many posts from me for a little while (unless they are juice or smoothie related!)

I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite MoFo posts to finish off the month.

Suzanne over at Hello Veggy made some very moreish looking citrus spiced tahini oatmeal. This is right up my alley, I reckon when I've finished my juice feast I'll be looking at you oatmeal!

Green Gourmet Giraffe made some pretty snappy looking sushi stacks. I like the construction of these, like teeny weeny sandwiches.

Shannon at Leaves and Flours made these awesome hummingbird cakes with pineapple flowers. I've seen these on pinterest too, but alas, have never bothered to make them. She's given me inspiration to make them - they look so pretty!

Julie at My Apologies for the Novel made some mozzarella! 

Kylie at Fellowship of the Vegetable made a pomegranate ginger cocktail. I think a cocktail night with the newlyweds at Sweets Workshop might be in order when they get back from their mini-moon. I reckon Kylie's recipes might float their boat!

Caeli at Little Vegan Bear made some gorgeous Pea and Mint Risotto - it made my heart sing it was a bowl full of Springtime! What's not to love about a creamy seasonal risotto?

 Almost Skinny Vegan Food made some Kasmiri Rogan Josh - I wanted it to jump out of the screen and into my mouth! Claire's been veganising a lot of fantastic cookbook recipes all month, you should check them out.

And last but not least Vegan Sparkles cherry ripe smoothie. Oh Rebecca, that is the most perfect sounding dessert smoothie. Yes, yes, yes! I'll have what she's having!

What were your favourites this year?

Just Desserts: Chocolate Burgers

Yes, you read that right. This is a CHOCOLATE BURGER!! Imagine a sweet chocolate bun, with a chocolate and nut pattie, fresh sliced strawberries, chocolate mint leaves( this IS a variety of mint, not actual chocolate) vegan cream cheese, and chocolate sauce. For dessert. These would be great for a party done in a mini version, and served with a strawberry or chocolate shake in a mini bottle and a cute paper straw. Make them and console yourself that MoFo is over for another year :)

The Buns
2 1/2 cups of bakers flour
1/2 cup dutch cocoa powder
approx 500 mls warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
approx 4 tablespoons olive oil

I'm going to give you a bit of a 101 for making a good bread dough, even though I already did it here. Not kneading for a pizza dough is fine. Not kneading for a bun or a loaf is not!

Whisk together yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water. Set aside until bubbly and frothy - if it doesn't bubble your yeast is dead! Add the cocoa and half the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until all incorporated. Gradually add remaining flour until you have a nice soft dough, easily indented with a finger.Turn the dough out onto a floured bench top or board and knead, knead, knead for about 10 minutes. The best way to knead is to fold over the dough on itself, and use your weight to push forward and squash the dough - which is less tiring than using only your arm muscles. give it a quarter turn and repeat. Pop on your favourite few songs, I usually knead to three or four tracks rather than timing it. There are recipes out there that claim to be "no knead." I am here to tell you, they will not be as good, will probably be quite crumbly (like a scone) and in my opinion, suggests a certain amount of laziness. Kneading is not hard!! It's 10 minutes - consider it part of a workout! If you really can't knead, and you have a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead for about 7 minutes, and finish it off by hand. This way you will 'feel' the dough has changed and know it is ready. Kneading activates the gluten in the flour, which gives the dough the elasticity it needs to capture gases created by the yeast creating air pockets and giving structure to your buns, and  a chewy texture. Properly kneaded dough rises quickly and well. When it is ready the dough will be silky soft, and elastic - ie if you try to pull a bit off, it won't tear easily.

Put your dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 3/4 an hour, or until doubled in size.
Punch down your dough, knead for a minute, and then portion into the bun size you would like (remembering the dough is going to get a bit bigger still). 1/4 cup pieces gave me a good size, not too big.
Preheat your oven to 180C and bake until bread sounds hollow when tapped. If the top is browning too quickly, just put some foil over the top. 40 minutes does the trick in my gas oven, but may take less or longer in yours. Turn out when done, and allow to cool.

The Chocolate Patties
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup pitted dates, soaked and drained
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup hazelnut meal

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until you have a nice firm texture. Add a little water if too crumbly, if too wet, add a little more hazelnut meal. Shape into patties to fit the buns.

To assemble, cut your bun in half, spread with cream cheese on the bottom. Place the chocolate mint leaves, then the pattie, then sliced strawberries, some more cream cheese if you like, and some chocolate sauce, gently replacing the top of the bun. Voila!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Warm Beetroot & Blue Lentil Salad with Caramelised Walnuts

This is one of those salads that we always go back to because it is so hearty. You can have it warm when the weather is a bit cool, or cold when the days are heating up. It has the lovely earthy taste of beetroot with the nutty savoury lentils, a little pop of sweetness from the walnuts, and lovely peppery rocket to round it off. 

Makes 6 serves

2 large beetroot, roasted
1 cup cooked blue lentils
4 cups rocket
3/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tablespoons garlic extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper
salt to taste

1.Roast beetroot in their skins in alfoil until soft, and allow to cool.
2.While beetroot is roasting, cook lentils according to packet directions, drain, and set aside.
3. Caramelise walnuts by melting margarine in a frying pan with sugar until syrupy. Toss walnuts through mixture, and then spread out on a tray lined with baking paper and allow to cool.
4. When beet is cool, gently rub off skin - it should slide off easily - wearing gloves to make things less messy! Thinly slice. If you are having the salad warm, toss the beetroot, oil, and cumin in with the lentils and gently warm through on a low heat, or just toss through without warming.
5.  Mix beetroot and lentils into rocket, sprinkle walnuts over, and sprinkle a little sea salt and cracked black pepper on the top

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Artisan Bread

A while ago I found a book called Artisan Breads  by Jan Hedh. I immediately bought it because I was suckered in by all the beautiful bread in the book, and also the recipes for bread made from wild yeasts. I have another bread book written in the early 70's which has taught me a lot about breadmaking, but it was pretty standard sort of recipes. Since Jan is a Swedish baker I was sure I would learn new skills and recipes, and they would be a success. But then it lingered on the bookshelf, because learning a new bread recipe takes time and patience, and at that point I had none. 
A couple of weeks a go I began a raisin starter from the book. 

The recipe called for honey as well as sugar but I omitted it in the hope it would work anyway. I had no idea the French usually make sourdough with a honey and raisin starter, so now I know! It worked and a week later my jar of raisins was bubbling like champagne, and the jar opened with a pop! You can see the bubbles in the photo below.

 I went ahead making the 'mother' and then the 'chef' which sounds complicated but really it wasn't, I just put it into the Kitchenaid with the dough hook on and timed it. I do like making the actual loaf by hand, or at least finishing it by hand though. Breadmaking is such a tactile process and you really need to 'feel' the dough turn into elastic. I made the dough for a wheat and rye loaf on Friday night, and left it overnight, hoping I had done everything right and it would rise. Phew... it did! I baked it off Saturday morning and we enjoyed it as part of a brunch. I made the Beloved have the first slice in case it was a disaster LOL. I was so pleased it worked the first time, and I'm going to keep making different bread from the book. If you like making your own bread and have the time to do it I would recommend it. Not all the recipes are vegan but many are easily adaptable and he explains the chemical process so the right substitutes can be made. Happy baking!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Just Desserts: Fruit of the Forest Chocolate Chestnut Cake

A little while ago I made a submission to Sweets Workshop for their annual Food Fight exhibition. Sweets is a retail art gallery run by the very talented John and Emma, who actively encourage and support local artists. The Food Fight exhibition is an invitation for artists, photographers, writers etc to submit a piece of work for a calendar which has a particular food theme. It is released in time for Good Food Month and the Summer Hill Neighbourhood Feast in mid October. This year's theme was The Festive Feast, and I was trying to think of something to do. When I began thinking about feasts, my mind drifted back to favourite books from my childhood -  Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, Jill Barklam's Brambly Hedge, and the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. The Redwall series in particular has many descriptions of epic feasts enjoyed by English woodland creatures, and I thought it would be so fun to recreate some of that. My next thought was what is the feast for, and it had to be something easily recognisable. I decided on a wedding simply because of the cuteness factor! I set about making mice, squirrels, rabbits, and otters, from various fabric scraps gleaned form my grandmother's stash. She used to make toys when her sight was better and she never throws anything away! I next made various food items from polymer clay - asparagus tart, a cauldron of soup, biscuits, fruit, salad, bread etc, and a wedding cake centre piece which I then made a recipe for. I had SO much fun as I hadn't had time to do anything really creative like that for a long time, so it was a really nice way to start all over again!

A rich dense chocolate cake ( like a mud cake). Gluten, egg, and dairy free.

439gr tin unsweetened chestnut puree
2 cups hazelnut meal
2 cups very good quality dark chocolate bits
1 cup soaked dates, pureed
1 cup mixed berries (frozen is ok, thaw out and drain first)
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1.Preheat oven to 160C
2.Sift baking powder and baking soda into hazelnut meal into a large bowl.
3.Add chestnut puree and beat for a minute or two until well mixed, scraping down the sides periodically.
4.Add pureed dates, and melted chocolate and mix for another couple of minutes.
Fold in mixed berries.
5.Grease and line a 20cm round springform or loose bottom cake tin. Dollop mixture into tin, and spread evenly.
6.Bake in oven for approximately 50- 60 minutes, a light crust will have formed, and some cracks may appear on top as it will have risen ever so slightly. Allow to cool completely before removing from tin, placing it in the fridge will speed up the process. Keep it in the fridge until ready to serve. 
7.Serve in small slices with more berries and ice cream if desired.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Spring Brunch: Strawberry, Cherry, & Rhubarb Compote

There is nothing as lovely as sitting in the Spring sunshine on a mountains morning drinking tea and eating food. It's all the more lovelier when you are sharing it with great friends.

The lovely Heather had come up from Adelaide for a whirlwind visit, so we met at my house. Mrs Bean and the irrepressible Jo (check out her blog by the way, she's an awesome writer!) had been up at dawn's crack to go to the flower markets before coming up for some wedwah prep, so brunch seemed like a pretty good idea. Mr Sprout had to go and get a new alternator for his van so it was just us girls.We had banana hotcakes with strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb compote; roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes; sauteed mushrooms; toasted homemade bread; and lots of tea! It was so nice sitting on our front patio with all the camellias in bloom and the sun shining, enjoying the company of friends. Not to mention a dog and cat or two. 

The dogs of course hung around for leftovers, Captain Twiggy in particular - I'll put on my best woe face and you will give me toast!

2 punnets strawberries, hulled and halved
3 sticks rhubarb, chopped
1 cup frozen pitted cherries
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 vanilla bean
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until rhubarb cooked through and liquid is syrupy. Cool and keep in fridge. Serve over pancakes/hotcakes, cereal, scones, or ice cream!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Mac n' Cheese Nachos

My blog reader seems to be full of macaroni cheese and taco cleanse! So I thought why not join the party and put nachos and macaroni together? 

I made macaroni cheese using my go to white sauce recipe  that I use on moussaka and on occasion, lasagne. I smothered the macaroni on top of some crunchy corn chips, added some black beans, leftover tomato and mushroom sauce, chilli sauce, fresh tomato and avocado. I know it sounds like a weird nacho topping but it was so creamy, cheesy, and filling, and I didn't have to make cashew queso or quinoa chilli. Neat when you've run out of frozen containers of the stuff that you usually keep in the freezer for the times when its a table for one and it seems too hard to cook all of that! 

I really liked it, and I have a feeling the Beloved would have liked it too except he's away still and missed out. That means I'll have to make it again! 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Choco Chia Shake

I have a confession to make. I don't eat properly when I'm by myself. I eat too little, just snack, and mostly can't be bothered. It's not that I eat junk, I just don't eat enough, and I eat snacky things like vegemite on toast, or just a banana. The Beloved has gone away for a few days and so this week I'm making an effort to eat properly while the hubby isn't here. He knows I do this and will undoubtedly ask what I've eaten. So I decided I would have a look in Gorilla Food by Aaron Ash. I like raw vegan, and some stuff is truly amazing, but I mostly can't be bothered soaking, sprouting, and dehydrating something that will take four days before I can eat it. Plus, by the time its ready its more than likely I want to eat something else. If I'm going to eat raw, I like simple fast recipes or just eating au naturale -give me a whole pineapple, or half a watermelon or whatever. I like the Gorilla Food book because it has a really good combo of fast and simple, and more complex. I decided a shake would be the perfect thing, but I wanted something comforting. Let me tell you, I think The Oh My Choco Chia Shake is the best choc shake I've ever had! Serious. Vegan or otherwise. And my gut is thanking me for it, even better! It's rich and creamy thanks to some cashews (which I didn't have to soak- phew!), not overly sweet (even better, my face isn't going to tingle from a sugar rush), and I got two servings of fruit and a protein boost (ha, its a complete meal bonus points!) It's like drinking a chocolate pudding its so velvety and delicious. If you are going to buy a raw vegan uncook book I would definitely recommend this one simply because of its variety and intensely flavoured recipes. I'll be making this shake over and over again I know!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Strawberry & Grapefruit Smoothie

I'm taking pictures from my phone today so I apologise for the not so great photo and somewhat boring post. Thursdays have recently become the day I spend volunteering at  Greyhound Rescue. They are pretty full at the moment, due to the bushfires earlier in the week some had to be evacuated from another kennel, so lots of dogs to walk today! Being hot weather I don't really feel like eating much but wanted to keep hydrated. I blended 500ml water with a whole punnet of strawberries, two pink grapefruit and an orange. I really don't understand these people who blather on about not eating fruit because its full of sugar and it will make you fat...blah blah blah...while they simultaneously stuff their gobs with a piece of poor dead cow. Give me fruit any day! Keeps me full and hydrated, and gives me lots of energy for all that walking! Try walking two or three greyhounds at once desperate for a pee and you'll know what I mean. Arm muscle people!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chocolate Chai

I can't vouch for the authenticity of this at all. But then, I'm not claiming it to be authentic, it has chocolate in it. No doubt Haviwah and Winnie can vouch for a much more authentic recipe (you can check out their adventures here). And who knows, maybe eventually we will make our way over to India for our much belated honeymoon and they can actually make me a real cup :)

Ok, so all you chai die hards are probably groaning or throwing your hands up in horror. Or not. Maybe you might give this a try – it isn’t one of those crappy syrups after all, this is made with real spices!
I am quite fond of chai, it’s a nice little pick me up on a cold afternoon or evening. Or, when you are still in a funk over a certain recent election, but you don’t want to take up the bottle to cope for the next three years. Ahem.  

I used Twinings Australian Afternoon Tea blend (forever known in our house as Kev) as it a is a full bodied strong tea which I believe is the basis for a good cuppa chai. I also used couverture dark chocolate bits, but you could use any decent quality dairy free chocolate and grate it instead. Some people like to make chai half water half milk, but I personally like this chocolate one made only with milk. I use Bonsoy at is very rich and creamy which seems to carry the spices really well. I like mine very gingery, so feel free to adjust spices to suit your taste.
125gr loose leaf Kev (or another strong tea)
2/3 cup dark chocolate bits
¼ cup ground cinnamon
½ cup ginger powder
¼ cup crushed cardamom pods
¼ cup ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground coriander

Mix all ingredients together and keep in a tightly sealed container.
To make the chai, use 2 heaped  teaspoons of the mix per 250ml non dairy milk, bring to the boil, and simmer for a couple of minutes, to allow chocolate to melt.  Let stand for five minutes, strain and serve. Add sugar to taste.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Avocado & Pink Grapefruit Bruschetta with Blue Lentils

This is a really simple post today, I'm a bit distracted this afternoon as we have some pretty serious bushfires around Sydney I've been keeping an eye on this afternoon (the Beloved is working in Sydney today). My mind isn't really focused enough to be doing anything really fiddly. Last night, as I took the hounds out  before bed, I felt the warm north westerly winds picking up so I didn't have to put on my jacket. We've had some pretty warm weather the last few weeks, unusually warm for this early in Spring, especially for the mountains.  The thought fleeted across my mind that we could be due for a pretty bad fire season this summer. It must have been some kind of premonition because already we've got some pretty bad fires burning this afternoon halfway down the mountain and in some other areas in Sydney's outer west. It seems ridiculous that last MoFo I was posting about snow and today I'm writing about fire.

So here is my easy peasy lunch. I've been eating lots of pink grapefruit lately because they are so cheap, and I like them because they aren't quite so sour as the yellow ones. The avocado gives a nice buttery contrast to the sharpness of the fruit, and the blue lentils give a nice earthy punch. I cooked 1/4 cup blue lentils in some salted water, drained and set aside while I cut up the fruit and grilled the sourdough. I put some homegrown rocket on top of the toast, and scattered everything else over the top, drizzled with some garlic infused oil and some cracked black pepper. Voila! 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Pom Pom Sushi

Last year I bought Kansha by Elizabeth Andoh. If you like Japanese cuisine but are always trying to work out what is and isn't vegan then I highly recommend this book. I bought it once again because I was suckered in by the beautiful photography and mouthwatering descriptions, but also because I hadn't come across a specifically vegan Japanese cookbook before.  I've made a few things from it and it is always delicious. The Beloved has grown fond of sushi lately, so for dinner I've made some red and white miso soup, and Pom Pom Sushi that looks so freakin' cute! They are really easy to make, so if you have never tried making your own sushi rolls, or you have tried and failed, have a crack at these. The idea is that you use up left over bits and pieces and wrap them around the balls of sushi rice. I had bok choi leaves, carrot, avocado, mushrooms, pickled ginger, capsicum, and some red lettuce which I used for mine. I think the more colours you have the prettier it is! 

Just Desserts: Choc Hazelnut & Almond Vanilla Pancakes with Drunken Strawberries

Some good old comfort food is needed this weekend, and so we thought we would indulge with some chocolate hazelnut and almond vanilla pancakes. These guys are the British/Aussie style pancake which is quite thin (almost as thin as a crepe), not the fluffy US style which we would traditionally call a pikelet or drop scone. Spread them with avocado choc mousse and roll them up, or serve plain with the strawberries and some sweet almond cream. 

Chocolate Batter
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
pinch salt

Vanilla Batter
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 cup water
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch salt

1.Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed, and stand aside for an hour.

2.While the batter is standing, slice some strawberries and pour your liqueur of choice over them, just enough to coat ( I personally like frangelico with the choc pancakes).

3.Check your batter - the mixture will have thickened, so whip in a tablespoon of water at a time to get a thinner batter, the consistency of cream.

4.On medium heat in a lightly greased frypan, pour enough mixture in to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Wait until edges begin to curl slightly and air bubbles appear, and flip over.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Vegan Devils on Horseback or, an Appetiser for Politicians

I am so ashamed. Tomorrow is Election Day here, and based on the polls, Tony Abbott is about to become the 28th Prime Minister of Australia.If you don't fancy listening to a bit of a political rant friends, then scroll down to the recipe.

I feel ashamed that my fellow countrymen - so disillusioned and fed up with the current government's internal feuds and backflips on policies- feel they have no choice but to vote for a narrow minded man who leads a greedy selfish party that wants to turn us into a greedy selfish nation. Get ready for a 4.5 billion dollar cut to foreign aid so you can have more roads. Asylum seekers - forget it Tony is going to stop the boats. Get ready for an apology to the Indonesian government for the Gillard government halting live export in 2011 (in response to cruelty committed to Australian livestock). Get ready for World Heritage listed areas to be delisted. Climate change reduction targets spending? Forget it. Renewable energy investment - you can forget that too. But that's ok, because Australians will have more roads to drive on (that's room for more cars and more pollution), and there will be more people around as well, because with Tony's paid parental leave scheme women will be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen doing the ironing where they belong. And since there will be more women at home, that's presumably how Tony is going to create more jobs. And while we're on the subject of women, apparently abortions are just "the easy way out". Yeah. This is the man that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched her famous misogynist speech on last year. And if you're gay, don't expect marriage equality to be on Tony's agenda. You can forget about an Independent Office for Animals too - because that's Kev's list, not Tony's. I am ashamed that a man who calls himself a Christian can be so narrow minded and selfish, and I feel ashamed that being a Christian myself he gives everyone else the idea we are all like that. It makes me want to cry in angry frustration. People don't realise it is not one or the other. There are other smaller parties and independents that if elected can prevent Tony from being given a blank cheque to get his bills through Parliament quicker than a bride takes off her nightie. So please fellow Aussies, don't waste your vote. Compulsory it might be, wasted it ain't.

So enough of the ranting. I want to have a bit of light heartedness today on Election Eve. I'll wipe my nose, dry my eyes and do some cooking.

This post is dedicated to you Tony - how about some Devils on Horseback?  And every time I stab a toothpick through a date Tony, I'll think of you ;)

Traditional devils on horseback are usually prunes or dates stuffes with cheese and wrapped with bacon. I've veganised them by stuffing dates with cashew cheese and wrapping them with eggplant.

And never fear, amongst all the devils you will always find an angel. Swap the dates for apricots and you can have some Angels on Horseback instead.

20 pitted dried dates (or apricots if you prefer the angels)
20 teaspoons cashew cheese
20 strips chargrilled eggplant
white wine (optional)
cracked black pepper

1. Soak the dates in hot water for a few minutes to soften, and then take out and pat dry.
2. Gently open up the dates - if they are already pitted they probably are already split down one side, just reopen it, or use a sharp knife.
3. Put a scant teaspoon of cashew cheese in the middle of the opened date, and push sides together slightly.
4. Wrap the filled date with a strip of eggplant and secure with a toothpick.
5. Place on an oven tray, sprinkle some white wine over the top, and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes. if you don't want to bake them, they are just as tasty unbaked. Top with some fresh cracked black pepper and serve.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Baked Roasted Nori Cakes

I was inspired by a recipe in Caribbean Vegan that uses eggplant and roasted nori to make a type of “fish” cake. The recipe in the book is more of a fritter, as it uses plenty of flour and is deep fried. I liked the idea of using nori to give a sea taste, but I am a little loathe to call vegan dishes after their meaty counterparts as it can give the wrong impression. To the best of my memory, these taste nothing like fish cakes. They are however, utterly yummy and I will make them again. They are more likely to fall apart while very hot, but hold together ok when allowed to cool a bit. Did I mention they are also gluten free!

Makes aproximately 8 cakes

2 lebanese eggplant, diced
3 nori sheets, torn into pieces
1 350gr block firm tofu
1 tsp hot chilli sauce
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced lemongrass
Pinch sea salt
1 onion
Cornflake crumbs

1.Dice the onion and eggplant and sauté in a little oil until onion is translucent. Set aside.
2.In a large bowl, mash the tofu, and add salt, lemongrass, ginger, and chilli sauce.
3.Tear the nori sheets into small pieces and add to the tofu mixture.
4.Add the onion and eggplant, and stir well to combine. You can leave the mixture in the fridge until ready to use at this point.
5.Using a 1/3 cup to scoop mixture, firm down, and gently tap out onto the cornflake crumbs. Toss crumbs over the cake and around the sides, and place gently onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. If they fall apart a bit, just gently press back together.

6.Bake in a 180C oven for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before removing from tray.