Thursday, 14 August 2014

Vegan Potato & Corn Chowder

It has been a loooooong time since I posted anything. Time, motivation, and creativity seem to get sucked into a black hole. Of course life also seems to do nothing but revolve around dogs these days too... but anyhoo... Being sick is a good motivator for finding the perfect comfort food that doesn't require too much effort.

This week I happened to get some kind of man flu. I say it is man flu simply because the way I felt Monday I am sure nobody else has ever felt in the universe and I was obviously dying. Somebody sapped all the energy out of me and gave it to someone else. Muscles ached in places I didn't think there were muscles. Stars exploded and new universes were formed inside my head. Of course, it did not help that I had completed the City to Surf on Sunday while knowing I was sick, but of course being in the early stages of man flu I obviously thought that I was invincible against my normal rational judgement and ran the 14km anyway. At one point while running I thought I was hallucinating when I saw two Wonder Women and four giant bottles of Pure Blond beer jogging past. Possibly aliens as well. Perhaps I had wandered onto the set of the next series of Dr Who? It has since been confirmed I was not hallucinating and these strange things were in fact there and I wasn't going mad. It was all worth it though as I was running to raise funds for Greyhound Rescue

However. Back to the problem of finding a bowl of nourishing comfort food.

Dairy in quantity does nothing good for me. However, there is something about creamy rich food that makes us feel better. This chowder does all of that without all the nasty dairy bits. It is rich and buttery tasting from the almonds, filling, and comforting. If you use crispy eggplant instead of the bacon style slices it is also gluten free!

4 medium waxy potatoes peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
1 cup diced onion
1 cup soaked almond kernels (husks removed) soaked in 1 litre of water
2 litres of vegetable or vegan chicken style stock powder
1 packet vegan bacon style slices (or crispy chargrilled eggplant works too!)
1 bunch of dill
1 bunch rocket or spinach
pepper to taste
lemon infused EVOO
oil for sauteing

1.Soak the almonds for a couple of hours or simmer for 15 minutes in a litre of water and cool.
2. Put the almonds and their water into the blender and process until very smooth. Kinda like making almond milk but we are using the ground almonds as well.
3. In a  large saucepan saute the onions in a little vegetable oil until soft and then add the corn kernels, diced potato, almond mixture, and stock.
4. Simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). If it is getting too thick thin it out with a little more stock or water.
5. While the soup is simmering chop up the bacon style slices and fry until crispy. Or fry up some smoky chargrill eggplant pieces instead, and set aside.
6. Take the soup off the heat, stir in a drizzle of lemon oil and pepper to taste, and the fried slices or eggplant.  Toss in rocket and dill, and stir through to wilt.
7. Serve with extra dill or rocket on top, and crusty bread.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Raw Vegan Easter Bun Truffles

Happy Easter! If crossed buns are significant to you at Easter and you would like one but can't have them, try these instead. I won't deny I've made the regular Easter buns this weekend simply because I don't mind the odd indulgence. However, if you are doing your darndest to stay raw over Easter or you are gluten free, or just want a healthier option then these are for you. They are pretty close to tasting like regular buns if I do say so myself, and they are easy peasy!

1 1/2 cups ground almonds
2/3 cup chopped dried fruit (I used raisins, apricots, and dates)
1 tablespoon mixed spice
4 tablespoons apple juice (if desired, they are sweet enough for me without)
4 -6 tablespoons coconut oil
sliced almonds to decorate

1. Stand coconut oil in warm (not hot) water until it liquefies
2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and then add juice (if using).
3. Add the coconut oil a little at a time until the mixture sticks together like a biscuit (or cookie if you're in the northern hemisphere) dough. It will depend on the oil content of your ground almonds as to how much you will need, some have a higher oil content and won't be as dry.
4. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into the size balls you would like, mine were a level tablespoon amount. Push down slightly and put onto a tray.
5. To make the crosses using a sharp knife cut strips of the sliced almonds into one longer bit and two half  lengths and push the pieces gently into the top to form the cross.
6. Cover and leave in the fridge for the coconut oil to set the truffles. It won't take long.
7. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Vegan Portobello Chestnut Patties

You may have been wondering where I have been since posts are so few between these days. I've been concentrating on juice feasting and eating some simple raw food, with some cooked meals to try and heal my body and get this damn weight off! So I haven't been experimenting much of late. But the change of season means I feel drawn more to comforting food since Summer's fruity bounty has all but come to an end. 

I love Autumn. The days are still mild, the nights crisp, and time seems to slide gently into winter. It's the season when the fire is lit again for the evenings, I linger in a hot bath, and then want to curl up with the cats and hounds for a cosy night in. 

Mr Sprout and myself celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary on the 26th March and it has been the first we have both been able to have the day off and spend it together since we were married. The romantic picnic I had in mind went down the drain with the ridiculous amount of water we've had pouring from the skies of late. Not to be discouraged we changed plans, packed our wellies in the van and headed out to Mt Irvine to squirrel for nuts instead. For us it's about a 50 minute drive since we live on the other side of the mountains, but it is a nice one. The small communities of Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine were cut off completely for several days in the bushfires we had in the Spring, and as we drove we saw plenty of areas that had been charred. Yet in the amazing nature of the Australian bush the eucalypts were already covered in bright green foliage helped along by the recent rains. Thankfully  Kookootonga nut farm was spared by the blaze although the neighbouring property lost everything. Which is just as well because we spent a very pleasant hour or so wandering under the canopies of towering chestnut and walnut trees and plucking the fattest nuts we could find.

 Since it was mid week we were barely disturbed by anyone else and the misty morning no doubt kept other squirrels at bay. $8.00 kg for fresh organic nuts are not to be beaten and certainly there is something lovely about gathering your own.

I decided to make some chestnut and portobello patties with our bounty since the mushrooms are also particularly good at the moment. they are delicious in your favourite bun with leafy greens and lashings of mustard, or wrapped in kale or chard leaves if you want a gluten free option. Earthy flavoured vegetables like fresh grated carrot or beetroot go well (or even just some ripe tomato). The mixture also makes excellent vegan sausage rolls, just get some vegan puff pastry and away you go!

250gr peeled cooked chestnuts, chopped
200 gr portobello mushrroms
1 large brown  onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
handful fresh sage, tarragon, and rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

1.If you are using fresh chestnuts cut a criss cross in the top and drop them in a pan of boiling water for about 10 - 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then peel and  roughly chop.
2.In a frying pan saute onion and garlic in an little coconut or oil until beginning to soften and then add the mushrooms. continue to cook until onions are cooked through. Allow to cool.
3.In a food processor put in all ingredients and pulse until the mixture resembles a mince and sticks together.
4.Leave in fridge, covered,  for half an hour or so for flavours to develop.
5.Using your hands shape into the size and shape you desire, and fry in a little oil until brown on both sides.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Australia Day: Vegan Chiko Rolls

Happy Australia Day!  A day for us to be glad we live in a free country and focus on all the things we do have instead of all the things we don't. Except for our current Prime Minister. He's one of the things we do have that I really wish we didn't. So sorry, citizens of the world for inflicting this man on you as our representative. But please don't blame me personally, I didn't vote for Tony Abbott.  His nugget of wisdom on our day of days? "My duty, as your prime minister, is to ensure that, as far as possible, in this great land of ours, no one is left behind," Except if you're on a boat obviously. In which case, not only are you left behind, but you're taken back as well. And we don't have enough cash for improvements to disability schemes, or giving more to foreign aid, but he did find some loose change down the back of the couch for newlyweds to get relationship counselling. But that's for another post. So I will continue to be glad I live in a free country and glad we will have the opportunity to get rid of him at the next election. Or earlier. You never know, this is Australia, we have changed PMs quicker than Bonds undies the last few years.

But enough of that. When I think of all our national foods there are a few that come to mind. What's a cake drive without a Lamington? Or morning tea without Tim Tams? Or a takeaway shop without a Chiko Roll? Yeah yeah yeah, we impress our international visitors with our rich multicultural grub, our fusion foods (aka Modern Australian Cuisine), and emphasise that despite guzzling beer we do a very nice Chardonnay. But truth be told, we're pretty happy with the everyday stuff too. So this year I decided it was high time for a veg version of the Chiko Roll. 

For those of you across the seas a Chiko is kinda like a spring roll but with much thicker pastry so it doesn't crumble in your hand. It reminds me of summer holidays and swimming at the beach. The traditional walk with my Dad up to the local fish and chip shop to get lunch - feeling slightly sticky with saltwater, covered in sand and wrapped in a towel, thwick -thwacking the hot pavement with my thongs. It makes me feel all gooey with nostalgia just thinking about it. And we always had an ice cream afterwards, my choice was usually a Bubble-O Bill or a Golden Gaytime (yes, for you non Aussies there is an ice cream called a Gaytime and yes it still exists. It's delicious, albeit not vegan. Hmmm...maybe I should try veganising that for another post). Despite the name it doesn't have any chicken and has a mixture of beef and shredded vegetables in it. And when I looked at the manufacturers website, quite a bit of TVP despite the beef and tallow. I don't think I've had one for about 13 or 14 years, but the Beloved thought it was a pretty good approximation and thought it smelled pretty Chiko-ey  alhtough he hasn't had one for ages either.  It would be pretty hard to buy pre made pastry for this, the texture wouldn't be right.  I guess you could use a savoury shortcrust sheet if you really couldn't be bothered making the dough. But you might as well make it while you're waiting for the mixture to cool, it isn't hard.

Makes approximately 8 large rolls

For the pastry
3 cups plain flour 
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

For the filling
1 chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped cabbage and kale
1 shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped green beans
1 cup cooked barley or rice
1/2 cup cooked brown lentils
2 teaspoons Massel chicken style stock powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for shallow frying

1.Cook lentils, barley, and rice and set aside.
2.In a large frying pan, heat  a little oil and saute onion, celery, carrot, beans, cabbage and kale until soft.
3.Add barley (or rice) and lentils, stock powder and pepper, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
4. To make pastry, place flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in in water and gradually take in flour from the sides until all water is incorporated. Knead for a few minutes until you have a smooth soft dough.
5. Divide dough into 8 portions and roll out into a rectangle, about 3mm thick. 
6.Spoon about 1/2 cup cooled mixture down the centre of the rectangle lengthways, leaving about 5cm at either end. 
7. Fold over the shorter ends, and the fold over one half of the pastry lengthways over filling, and roll to wrap remainder of pastry and to seal.
8. Heat oil in a frying pan and gently place a couple of rolls in at a time, seal side down first, frying until brown and crisp, and then turn over (you can deep fry if you would like, I couldn't be bothered messing about with all that oil!)
Serve straight away while crisp and hot.

P.S. Tony - if we didn't have plenty of "boat people" come to this country we wouldn't have the Chiko Roll so ner!