Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas (a.k.a. Let's Have The Oven On All Day You Guys)

My family is not one of great traditions, but for me Christmas will always equal baked veg (and a good dose of bad TV to go with it). Despite the fact it was 31 degrees, I couldn't resist throwing together a baked dinner with Sanitarium's vegie roast and as many veggies as I could fit in this gigantic mother pot:
I followed Jamie Oliver's sound advice (does anyone else love his Christmas specials?) and tried his smashed potato recipe - what makes this one great is instead of smashing the spuds immediately after you parboil, you wait half an hour, then smush, then bake for another half an hour. The potatoes stay moist and crisp like mad on the bottom and are so, so good. Other than that, pretty typical roasties - pumpkin, potato, sweet potato, carrot, a whole onion cut into small wedges and separated (do this so all the little bits caramelise and get everywhere and go super soft - brilliant). Rosemary, thyme, onion powder. Simple. Brilliant. Not very dignified in the pan though:
You get some seriously good stuff out the other end! This is my personal veggie-pile and a few slices of veggie roast. Yum.
The spuds on the bottom are inspired by quinces and kale's recent roast spud post - couldn't resist trying it as well as regular roasties. I made almost a batter with the flour and oil and tossed the spuds - it was quite tasty! I have other ideas for using that concept and will post about them when I have time to experiment.

Anyway. A roast dinner is delicious but always, always make far more veg than you need so you can have bubble and squeak the next day! This is actually from another Jamie Oliver christmas special I watched.. no idea, maybe years ago now. Anyway, it's super simple and extremely delicious, so give it a go. Nothing like the traditional kind really, but so worth it.

You will need:
Leftover roast veg from the fridge (I've used potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot and onion. Keep your pumpkin to a minimum - 1-2 chunks - or things get a little gloopy. If you don't like to roast onion, dice and fry one up and add it to the mix, it's brilliant.)
A few slices of leftover roast "meat" (optional) - nut roast, lentil loaf, tofurky, whatever you like- I'm using Sanitarium's vegie roast. I love this stuff. If you want, facon would be pretty great too, but the point of this is leftovers really, so don't make a big effort.
A little oil, salt and pepper
A big flat nonstick frypan (use something heavy bottomed for best result)
A spatula or your favourite squishing implement

Take out your leftover veg and chop into roughly 1 cm pieces. You want to chop rather than tear to retain texture. As you can see below, the pumpkin is delicious but gets super mushy so you don't want a lot of it. Give it a good crack of salt and pepper and toss it all together so you end up with a decent mix of veggies - no clumps of one thing.
Chop up your roast "meat" into fine pieces (smallish dice will do) and add to your vegie mix. This is my leftover vegie roast - this one is great because the glaze is largely sugar, so it caramelizes and you get sticky burny crispy bits to add into your veg and it rocks. (That said, if you have a favourite pre-made veg 'roast' let me know about it! I haven't tried any of the other brands.)

Heat your frying pan to about medium and add a small splash of oil. Pour in your roast veg mix and press down in the pan. Let sit for around ~5 minutes - you want a nice brown crispy crust forming. When that's happened, give everything a big stir so new sides will brown. Nothing will stick together here and that's kind of the point, so roll with it. You're basically making a glorified hash here, but if you prefer a patty, then use a little more pumpkin, tear everything roughly /use a masher and shape with your hands. You'll get a very similar result, just with less texture.
 Let cook another five minutes until everything is hot and crispy, then turf out and serve with your leftover roast, or some greens, or whatever takes your fancy. For the non-vegans out there, Jamie suggests cracking an egg on top and letting it cook in the hash, so give that a go if it's your kind of thing. But on its own, this is divine and one of my favourite breakfasts ever.

As for other Christmas nibbles, I tried a few pre-made tasty bits this holiday. These are Moo Free's new chocolate pralines. Honestly, I'll finish them but they're overpriced and far too sugary - the inside texture is like sand (gritty and kind of sticky on your teeth), and it kinda feels like they used mostly sugar and not enough hazelnuts for the interior. (I make praline from time to time and it's incredible when done right, bad praline makes me sad.) My mother summed it up quite well when she said "the problem with vegan milk chocolates is they try to emulate creaminess with sugar.". And it's true. Still, very glad I got to try them but I'll stick to my own in future.
Coles has had an interesting range of "christmas balls", mostly vegan (says so on the label!). I picked up the choc-almond ones, $5. They're pretty good - nice cocoa hit, kind of remind me of a hedgehog slice. There's sultanas in them but very few - you forget until you bite into one, which is really confusing to eat. I'm excited to see more and more vegan treats appearing though, so awesome!
I also got these - Fino's Confections jellies. I love these. Great texture, great flavours - they are definitely a two-bite candy though, they're about an inch across. Terribly pricey but easy to get a hold of and very tasty! I actually picked up the citrus pack today and they're not half so nice as the berry ones, go figure:
We're also obsessed with this juice lately - I'm not really a juice person, or an anything-but-water person, but this stuff is brilliant. The label made me chuckle when I bought it, but damnit they're right - I could happily live on this stuff. You win this round, Freshafruit.
And.. that's it for Christmas for another year! Now back to skinning hazelnuts for praline and pretending it's not going to be hot tomorrow. Whoops.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Updates, Updates, Updates

Hello! This week has been the Week of No Photos, largely due to a lot of kitchen screwups. Here's some.

- Called a local Indian restaurant about making a vegan masala dosa. Girl on the other end whisper-yelled "I DON'T UNDERSTAND" and then hung up on me. D: Tried to make own dosas - the packet mixes are decent, but cannot get the frying of right. Have mastered the potato filling though - through use of a packet spice mix and a lot of turmeric, but still. The potato mix also makes amazing spicy fritters with peas and other veggies added.

- Craving tomatoes, I tried this recipe from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. I am not a fan of creamy risottos and somehow I always manage to forget this. Veganopoulous' kritharaki is still my favourite wet tomatoey thing (is there a nice way to compare risoni/risotto?) by a long shot, so I gave up and made that for dinner instead and it was awesome.

- Made this vegetable manchurian recipe. Accidentally added too much ginger to the sauce and it was really, really bad. Ate the veg balls on their own and they were divine, despite having basically no seasoning. Sometimes veggies are just really really brilliant on their own. Will definitely make these again, they'd make awesome appetisers!

- I tried out potato waffles in my waffle maker and surprisingly, wasn't really a fan - they didn't really crisp up like a fritter, but still, mashed potato is not bad no matter what. I really want to try this recipe next, it looks incredible.. like a fritter, but better.

- More hot days, more noodle salad. The tofu in here is half soy-sesame and half lemongrass - the lemongrass was really mild and turned out more perfumed than flavoured. Will play with that more, though - I live near an amazing fruit and veg shop that always has it fresh for very very cheap. The noodles here are actually about 50% bean sprouts:



I flavour it with a little light soy and vegetarian fish sauce. The one I use is the one in this post by New Epicurian - it's nothing like fish sauce, but it's sweet and a little vinegary with a nice chilli afterburn. Perfect for noodles and spring rolls and just about everything ever.

- Made this meat pie recipe for kicks today. It was disgustingly tomatoey, so I didn't end up finishing it - but pastry is always pretty good. It was a great experiment nonetheless. I can't quite replicate the La Panella pie though:


- Picked up some close-to-use-by passionfruit Coyo for half price at Go Vita, and knew I'd never eat it in time so - almond milk and a little agave and hey presto, fro-yo! Really good stuff. I'll be doing this again with the homemade kind in future.



- This pair of juvenile king parrots have figured out we put out seed and have been stopping by. The boy (in front) is friendly and will eat out of your hand, although he's terribly messy and looks like he has leprosy or something. His missus is shyer, but still not overly worried. They're adorable and we love watching their colours develop. Aren't they festive?



And last of all - Merry Christmas, folks! What are you doing for lunch/dinner?! 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Hot Beef Injection?

Anger Burger still inspires me, despite Sunday's blog absence. Flipping through the site for dinner ideas a few days ago, I came across Sunday's recipe for Bowl Noodle Hot, essentially a slow-cooked Asian beef soup designed to be a salty, tangy vehicle for noodles and veggies and the giant hunks of beef you simmer with it. Hmm. I did what probably should have had a terrible result: forgot the beef and made it anyway. IT WAS AWESOME.


The method is pretty simple: everything gets plonked in a giant pot, brought to the boil and simmered on low for hours. You start off with pretty bright veggies - it looks bright and fun, but ends up a gorgeous thick dark mess with a layer of (very attractive) sludge. Sieve it and you have a seriously fantastic soup going on there. As far as the recipe, if you ignore the lack of beef here I didn't really deviate from the recipe too much; I used my homemade stock concentrate (via the recipe at Appetite Affliction - brilliant stuff, so convenient!) instead of beef broth and added a small sprinkle of Massel's beef powder to attempt to get a 'beef noodle' flavour. No Kitchen Bouquet, because I don't know what it is. A little Maggi Seasoning instead. No Szechuan peppercorns because we're wusses in this here house - I did throw in some of the regular variety though. This gets super salty and condensed, so add water as you feel it's needed - I probably added two-three cups on and off as it simmered. I didn't measure my vinegar, just tasted as I went along. It's a great addition; if you have it, use it - it helps with the complexity of the flavours something fierce.


Organic ramen from the supermarket (something seems ironic in there), dumplings and my favourite firm tofu fried crispy. I wouldn't do the dumplings again but the tofu really is amazing here. The broth is salty and rather intense and the crispy, kind of egginess of plain fried superfirm tofu does wonders. Next time I'll keep the 'fu but add some veg - Sunday suggests carrot and daikon, and I'll definitely use bok choy. If I had a barbecue, I'd use PPK's grilled ramen recipe for the veggies, because that sounds delicious. This was an awesome dinner with a pretty minor amount of effort. And there's still a decent amount of stock left to reduce down and freeze, so there will be more of this in the future. Brilliant. I'm going to go sit down and congratulate myself on this one.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Dreamcake

Did anyone else grow up with Betty Crocker cake mixes? My mother used to decorate cakes professionally, and she always used a Betty Crocker as her base (even though she's a smashing baker). This recipe is the closest and the best. (2 cups of sugar, be warned.) Use coffee instead of water. That's where it's at.


And then, because two cups of sugar isn't enough, mock creamy filling. (Margarine and icing sugar, beat it 'til it's fluffy and not grainy in the slightest.)



And THEN the best cocoa you have and some coffee and make a nice dark mocha icing. Somewhere along the line this became the Technicolour Dreamcake (although I have no idea why now) but sometimes you really just need to eat a pile of kilojoules and this is an excellent way to do it. Yum yum.



Back to non-rambly posts soon, I promise. But a question - does anyone know where to get pearl sugar in the CBD or southeast? I have got myself a waffle maker and I need pearl sugar to blister my tongue, clearly. Thanks in advance! 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Noodles

It's getting hot. For real. I'm sick of it already - but here's what we've been eating:


Rice vermicelli on bottom, boiled then chilled in cold water. Salad veg chopped up fine. Spring onions. Kalbi tofu (firm - the soft kind is better). Spring rolls. Pepper "steak" from Global Green. Mix it all up and dress it however you like - we like vegetarian fish sauce, a little soy and a bit of sesame oil. Yum.


What do you guys eat when it's hot? 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Braised Daikon (One Sucks and One Doesn't)

After going to Fina's and Fuji Mart (I adore Asian supermarkets), I headed home super inspired and wanting to cook. I'd had this recipe playing in my brain for a couple of days. I'm a sucker for caramelized anything, and one of my current cooking goals has been to find more "meaty" type things that aren't tofu or mock meats, because I fall back on it awfully often. It's the easiest thing - peel, cut, simmer. So, before I did it, I made cupcakes.


I Googled for this recipe and I really wish I hadn't. It was this one here. The problem is that it's incredibly vague and doesn't give a finished quantity, or a lot of basic hints. I need to make better choices with this kind of thing.

The batter, while adding in the liquids, looked a lot like raw mince. Disturbing.




M-mmm, cream cheese skin!


Frosting looked pretty cute. Aaaaaand then it split. I used Kingland cream cheese for the first time and didn't really enjoy the flavour, so that was an additional level of fail.

Glorped into a (pink!) baking tray, it still looked good! They rose puffily after I checked them around 10 minutes in and looked great.


And then I opened the door at the fifteen minute mark, and they'd sunk spectacularly. Hard and crusty edges and totally concave. Sad times.

Fortunately, I still had the braised daikon to play with. Daikon is not a particularly attractive thing - great long thing the size of your arm. All you do is peel and slice, prep-wise. (This is half a radish - I think I grabbed one of the smaller ones.) 



Layer carefully in the bottom of your pot - no overlaps! 


Pour in just enough water to cover, then add your mirin and soy sauce (I used garlic soy because it's my favourite condiment ever) and then bring to a simmer. I also chucked in a couple of spring onions because they needed using, but it's totally not necessary. These simmer for approx. 40 minutes, or until all of the liquid is gone. 


 At the end, you end up with something glorious. The flavours condense and caramelize, and the outside goes sticky-crispy, and the insides are soft with just an itty bit of chew. They're perfect. I don't have words to describe. I bought daikon seeds online after I ate these. I julienned some veggies, tossed them in a little fish sauce and the remains of the caramelising liquid and chucked it into a crunchy white baguette:


Scallop strips. (Not mine.)


Big chunks! (Mine.)
 This was so good. And so simple. And you can enjoy them cold! I can see them working well in so many things - topping rice and noodle salads, in sandwiches of all kinds, as "scallops". (Apparently adding a strip of kombu to the braising liquid achieves the sea-like flavour really well - so if you were a fish fan pre-veg, you could totally follow scallop recipes. The texture seems fitting.) Either way, they're brilliant and I look forward to playing with the recipe more!



Fina's Vegetarian Cafe, Richmond

After being lazy at WVD and not lining up for a Vietnamese pancake, I remembered Fina's existed, and I hauled my butt out to Richmond accordingly. (We've been meaning to go for over a year now.. oops.)

The cafe is bright and cheery and the first thing that strikes you is the big fat cake counter:


Fresh fruit and veg for juices, coconuts, and a whole lot of probably-not-vegan baked goods. I had a good look but didn't bother asking. Spot the cornflake crackles (or honey joys, or whatever you call them) in the middle! That made me smile. Not something you see commercially very often.

Big ol' drinks menu. Again, quite a bit of this isn't vegan, I think.

We snagged the last indoor table and deliberated for a fair while. Our waiter was incredibly cheery and reassured us that all the food was veganisable and not to worry. Awesome. We ended up going for the spring roll noodle salad, $9.50, and the vietnamese pancake, $10.50.

The first thing to come out was a big pile of lettuce and mint with a spicy chili dipping sauce. We were pretty confused, because it was about five minutes between this and our other food. No big deal, though! Just more time to talk.

Here is the spring roll salad. It comes basically unflavoured, so you need to take advantage of the sauces on each table and the dipping sauces and mix your own.. but I like that. We're wusses when it comes to spice, so ours ended up being a little spicy fish sauce and a fair bit of soy. 



This was a fantastic meal for a warm day. Cool, crunchy and covered in peanuts: my favourite things. I like when you can go out for lunch and walk out feeling refreshed, as opposed to clutching your stomach. It's a good feeling.

 Then my vietnamese pancake came out, and the coconut milk smell was.. not that pleasant, but I hoed into it anyway.

This just wasn't my thing. The coconut milk flavour is very strong and the pancake is slightly rubbery - the batter is full of mushroom and mock ham and that makes it make a bit more sense, but I still left most of it. If you like coconut milk, though, you'll love this - it's crispy and full of veggies. I'll probably do exactly the same thing at home with a vegan omelette now that the weather is warming up.


I really enjoyed Fina's. The prices are fantastic ($25 for two meals and the vegetarian roll I snagged on the way out), the service was fast and cheery and the cafe itself is bright and fun. I left satisfied and thinking two things: I'll be back soon, and that I really need to get a mint plant.

We wandered back down to Prahran, had a big wander through the market and picked up a Mister Nice Guy red velvet in a perfect tiny box, $4.50:


It was delicious. It also spurned an epic cupcake fail on my part that night. Sigh.

The vegetarian roll was also brilliant. They're chock-full of julienned veggies, coriander, boiled (marinated??) peanuts, and a tasty, flaky mock meat. I have no idea what it is, but the proportions were pretty much perfect and it was maybe the best sandwich I've had ever.
(Side note: I am not generally a sandwich person. I think that sort of skews my ratings here. But either way, this was damn tasty)


Gore shot - I think it's faux-chicken strips, maybe soy-based?


Fina's! Go! And stay tuned - posting a simple but incredibly brilliant recipe very shortly.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Gettin' Figgy With It: WVD and New Pana Chocolate Flavour

World Vegan Day! Who went?!!?
Sign near the tram stop.

We got in at 10:30 and it was already disgustingly crowded and too hot in the room. Sigh. We did a round of the hall and checked out the Pana booth: 

The only free space in the place.

Pana are very generous with their samples (and their WVD deals)! It makes me like them all the more. We tried the new flavours, Fig and Wild Orange and Sour Cherry and Vanilla - both are amaaazing. Bought three bars of each. Excellent decision.



After stocking up on Notza at the Radical booth (it appears they've reduced the amount and added more packaging - sad), we decided to grab a pre-lunch snack. These are the satay skewers and spring rolls from Enlightened, $5/3:


Both were tasty as heck. I'm always a fan of deep fried because I refuse to do it at home (oil smell.. blegh). I must experiment with making my own satay with mock nuggets. The spring rolls have that sweetness that Chan House's have too - is it some kind of white mock meat? I have no idea. But it's so tasty. I must make it to Enlightened sometime, I think.

Gore shot! Cannot for the life of me work out what this stuff IS exactly.

Walked around again and scoped out the goods:






More yums. (I really wanted a Vietnamese pancake from Fina's, but there was a 20-minute wait at 11 am. Nope.) These are veggie balls from Gopal's, with a tomato chutney. $5:


Tasty tasty. I've never actually been to Gopal's. If they have these on the menu, clearly I should. 


People escaping from the nasty crowds.

I love WVD and I love that it's gotten so popular, but it seems like this year was so badly planned. Looking at the Facebook, it seems that everyone overheated, the security guards were surly and not many people ate as much as they wanted to. (Tragedy.) So that kind of sucks - I hope they're able to accommodate the crowds better next year. I definitely would have done some actual shopping had it not been so hot and crowded in the hall. 

Here's what I ended up bringing home:


Yoyo from A Caterpillar's Dream, $3. This was really good and I wished I'd bought several.


Cinnabun from Mister Nice Guy, $4.50. My mother ate this and said it was a bit dry - don't know if that's because it was baked in advance or they just do a dry, bready bun. Keep in mind we're gigantic fans of the Vegan Yum Yum recipe, which is terribly soft and decadent and generally bad for you, so this could just be bias.



The ambiguously named "meat roll" from Vegie2Go, $7.95:


Innards.

Honestly, this was mediocre. The inners had that pasty texture that you get from over-processing lentils - I'm guessing it was a TVP-lentil mush mix. I don't really know, but I think the DIY kind with nuts and oats are better tasting and have a better texture. 


 I had it with some (better tasting than they look, I swear) wedges with my current favourite seasoning:



1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, generous dashes to taste of yellow mustard seeds, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and hot paprika.



 And then I got stuck into my Fig and Wild Orange Pana bar:




See that? That's a big ol' chunk of dried fig there. See that crack in the bar? More fig. Pana just keeps getting more and more awesome with their flavours. Unf. I'm hungry now.