Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Soup, casserole, cake and a new family member

Life has been a little crazy over the past couple of weeks which means that blogging has taken a backseat. There are so many posts I would love to be writing as I've been cooking up plenty of interesting meals, unfortunately there aren't enough hours in the day so I haven't had the time to follow most of them up with a blog post.

Our time has largely been devoted to our new family member Ollie. Long time readers of my blog may remember the heartache we experienced last year with our dog Jasper after he was diagnosed with a bone cancer. Jasper successfully went through a hind leg amputation and lived an active and happy 6 months before deteriorating rapidly when the cancer spread to his lungs. It was a devastating experience and has taken almost a year for us to feel ready to accept another dog into our home.

We went through a lengthy period of attempting to adopt a dog via various rescue organisations. After a lot of waiting, red tape and many close calls we ended up finding an older puppy outside of these organisations that was in just as much need, if not more, of a good caring home. A group of young international students had purchased a border collie puppy from a breeder obviously without having any knowledge of dogs or this particular breed of working dog. The pup had been confined to the inside of their house for 5 months, was never walked, trained or even desexed and had developed into a bundle of frenetic energy that just wanted to jump all over people. They were so desperate to get rid of the problem they had unknowingly created and didn't even bother to say goodbye when we took him off their hands!

In just over a week with us Ollie has learnt to stop jumping on people (most of the time), walk on the lead, sit, stay, drop and go to his bed. He is a sweet pup that is very eager to please but there are still a lot of areas where he needs work, including learning not to chase our dear old cat Monty! It has been an exhausting period as he can be the equivalent of a badly behaved toddler at times although it is wonderful to have a canine companion around the house again.

A couple of weekends ago I pulled up some more borage plants to make soup. This dark green soup was very basic and adapted from an old celtic recipe which we initially enjoyed and likened the flavour of the borage to spinach. Unfortunately the leftovers didn't fare as well! The following day the soup was very thick and set like jelly. It thinned out a little after it was reheated although the flavour wasn't as nice as it had been on the first day. The man thought that it tasted like egg yolk and although we did finish our bowls I'm not sure that I would use borage this way again.

The other night I baked a tortilla casserole to use up some very old corn tortillas that had been in the fridge for ages. I made the tortilla casserole from Viva Vegan a while ago and didn't have the right ingredients for it this time so I created my own version. Rather than topping it with a creamy nut/tofu based sauce, I crumbled some plain corn chips followed by grated cheezly. The sauce that was spread within the tortillas included pinto beans, corn kernels and diced mushrooms. I love the concept of a tortilla casserole as it's like a Mexican styled lasagne, this recipe is simple and versatile as it could be changed up to suit whatever vegetables or beans happen to be on hand. This meal was fantastic and just as tasty as I recall the one in Viva Vegan, it's definitely something I'll be repeating again as it was a hit with all of us.

A recent acquisition to my ever growing pile of cookbooks is World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I wrote about Bryanna's delicious tofu "fish" fingers recently which is a recipe that is posted on her blog. I have made a handful of recipes from World Vegan Feast recently and they have all been fantastic. I had been eyeing off a recipe for a lebanese semolina cake with lemon syrup from the book and ended up making it with limes as my mother in law gave me heaps from her tree. The semolina cake which is also known as sfoof was supposed to be topped with slivered almonds and as there were none in the house I used some chopped pistachios instead. This cake had a nice tangy flavour from the syrup, a different texture from the semolina and it was so lovely and moist. The syrup is supposed to keep the cake fresher for a longer period. I'm not sure we will be able to test that theory as I have a feeling that it won't last long around here.

Hopefully I'll be able to get back into more regular blogging soon, for the time being I'll leave you with these three recipes.

Borage soup (Adapted from a recipe on celtnet)

2 tablespoons dairy free margarine
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup basmati rice
4 cups vegan chicken stock (I used Massel stock powder)
450g borage leaves, washed thoroughly
½ cup cashews
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnish borage flowers

Melt the margarine in a stockpot over medium heat and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rice and stir thoroughly so that all of the grains are coated. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Stir through the borage leaves and allow to cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cashews, water, lemon juice and salt in a blender and process until a smooth paste results. Stop the blender and scraping down the sides a few times if necessary. Transfer the contents to a bowl and refrigerate. Rinse out the blender with warm water.

When the borage has cooked for 20 minutes, transfer the contents of the pot to the blender and process in batches until it is completely smooth. Return the blended soup to the stockpot and reheat gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the soup ladled into bowl with a dollop of the cashew cream, garnished with borage flowers.

Tortilla casserole (Inspired by Viva Vegan)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
150 g mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 x 400g tin pinto beans, drained and rinsed
400g fresh tomatoes, chopped (or use a tin)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water
½ teaspoon smoked salt (or use regular)
6 small corn tortillas (15cm diameter), cut into halves
Large handful of plain corn chips
100g cheezly, grated
Serve with cashew cream, guacamole and salsa picante

Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat the oil in a deep sided frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic for a minute, then add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika and stir until fragrant then add the corn kernels, pinto beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, water and smoked salt. Allow to cook for 10 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 20cm x 20cm baking dish and layer a couple of tortillas on top. Repeat the layering another 2 times finishing with the sauce on top. Crumble a large handful of corn chips on top followed by grated cheezly. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve with cashew cream, guacamole and salsa picante.

Sfoof - Lebanese semolina cake with lime syrup (Adapted from World Vegan Feast)

¾ cup raw sugar
¾ cup water
grated zest of 1 lime
juice of 4 limes (about 2/3 cup)
½ cup pastry flour (low gluten)
1½ cups fine semolina
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups raw sugar
1 cup soy milk
zest of 1 lime
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pistachios, chopped roughly

Place the sugar, water and lime zest in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir through the lime juice thoroughly, then pour the contents into a jug and refrigerate until required.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Line a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper and grease lightly with dairy free margarine. Combine the pastry flour, semolina, turmeric, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. With a hand held mixer, beat together the soy milk, sugar and lime zest in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the contents of the small bowl and the oil and beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour the batter into the cake tin and sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Bake for 35 minutes on until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool the cake for 10 minutes, then remove carefully from the tin. Using a bamboo skewer, pierce small holes all over the top of the cake then pour the cooled lime syrup on top.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A series of scrambles (part 1)

Tofu scrambles are one of the most popular meals in our house so I make them on a fairly regular basis. I hardly ever cook them for brunches these days and prefer to whip one up as a casual dinner. If it's a tried, tested and previously loved formula then I usually make an enormous batch as the leftovers are fantastic for work lunches throughout the week.

I haven't blogged much about tofu scrambles before so I figured it was time to start posting a few of my scramble recipes starting with the household favourite, a Mexican inspired tofu scramble. This scramble has been made several times over the past year with many tweaks along the way and I'm pleased to have recorded the recipe now so I can refer back to it next time I'm making a batch.

Broccoli is hardly an authentic Mexican ingredient but try telling that to the man who insists that it goes into almost every scramble I make! I love to include lots of vegetables and find that sliced mushrooms, grated carrot (sometimes also zucchini) and spinach leaves thrown in at the end are barely noticeable. The equivalent of a tin of red kidney, black or pinto beans are always an addition which give the meal an even bigger protein boost. As you can see in the photo below, my large deep sided frying pan is so full at the end it can be quite a struggle to stir the final ingredients through without making a mess.

The recipe has been written with a few variations in the ingredients. I don't always have smoked tofu on hand but the scramble works just as well with plain tofu and some extra smoked paprika. I normally use 2 teaspoons of chipotle chilli powder which makes it fairly hot, 1 teaspoon is quite mild if you are not a spice fiend. A hot sauce like salsa picante or sriracha is wonderful drizzled over your serve if you require an extra kick.

So that's it for part 1! I haven't set myself a timeline nor do I know how many of these posts I'll be writing at this stage. There are a few more that are ready to go in the recipe sense and plenty of other different scramble ideas floating around in my head.

Mexican inspired tofu scramble

1 head broccoli, cut into small florets and stalk sliced into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into half moons
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
250g button or portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons chipotle chilli powder
1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika (use 1 teaspoon if using smoked tofu, 2 if using plain tofu)
2 x 350g packets firm tofu (or 1 x 350g plain tofu, 1 x 300g smoked tofu)
2 medium carrots, grated
1/3 cup tomato paste
½ cup water
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt (it may need a little more salt if not using smoked tofu)
freshly ground black pepper
75g baby spinach leaves

Lightly steam the broccoli and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large deep sided frying pan, add the onions and fry over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and beginning to release liquid. Add the cumin, oregano, chipotle chilli powder and smoked paprika and stir for a minute, then crumble in the tofu with your hands. If using smoked tofu, chop this into very small cubes as it doesn't crumble well.

Add the carrot, tomato paste and water and stir thoroughly. Allow the liquid to cook off which should take between 3 to 5 minutes, then stir through your choice of beans, steamed broccoli, lime juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Finally stir through the spinach leaves until just wilted and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bloggers night out at Gasometer

I haven't been using Twitter very long and am not in the habit of constantly checking up on the numerous tweets that people send out frequently so it was fortunate that I happened to be checking my Twitter page right when Theresa of The Tropical Vegan announced that she was coming to Melbourne. Theresa was travelling for work and her arrival on a Sunday night meant that she was free for a dinner date. After a bit of tweeting back and forth dinner was arranged at Gasometer.

It was wonderful to meet up with the lovely Theresa as I have been reading her posts for a couple of years and enjoy her recipes as well as hearing about gardening and house projects and more generally life in the tropics (Townsville) because I am quite fond of the Far North Queensland region. Which is exactly what we spent our time chatting about as well as our families, jobs, pets and of course, veganism, food and blogging.

Theresa had her heart set on the pastrami burger which is the perfect choice for an out of towner. I chose to try something different and ordered the broccoli, spinach and leek pancake with roasted root vegetables. The pancakes were light and delicious, the combination of greens in the filling tasted fantastic, the flavour of the leeks was apparent without being overwhelming and the creamy paprika spiked sauce on top brought it together perfectly. An even nicer surprise were the roasted vegetables on the side, the potatoes, beetroot, carrots, garlic and beans were delicious, cooked to perfection and presented attractively on the plate. This was the largest quantity of vegetables I've had in a meal at Gasometer.

When Theresa and I said our farewells, we both had little surprises in store for each other. Theresa made this adorable elephant for me as a thank you which has the sweetest little tail, gorgeous eyes and just look at that big long trunk. I haven't come up with a name for him/her yet but I really think it needs one. 

In the afternoon, I made a tangy lemon slice which was a recipe I had bookmarked from Kari of bite sized thoughts. I won't bother posting the recipe as I didn't change anything apart from adding a bit of lemon zest to the base. The only issue was I hadn't taken note that the slice needed to be refrigerated 2 to 4 hours prior to slicing. With just under an hour to spare, I whacked it in the freezer for a bit which seemed to suffice. I brought along some of the slice for Theresa in case she was in need of a sweet snack during her stay in Melbourne.

It's always a fantastic experience to meet up with other bloggers even for a shy introvert like me. I'm glad I got the chance to meet Theresa in person and look forward to catching up again one day, if not in Melbourne then perhaps in the tropics!


This is the third time I have posted about eating at Gasometer, you can read my initial post about the old US diner styled menu here and the current Eastern European menu here. Since I last posted about Gasometer, I've eaten here a few more times but haven't had my camera with me.

The mushroom schnitzels are challenging the pastrami burger as the man's favourite meal, they have a lovely crust on the outside and a tasty mushroom filling inside with an interesting texture and is served with a delicious gravy. It comes with a huge amount of mashed potato which isn't terribly exciting and some garlicky green beans to make you feel good about having something green on your plate.

We have also tried the pretzel and the mamaliga fritters from the smaller plates section of the menu. The pretzel is a perfect dish for sharing between 2, 3 or more people, it's a huge freshly baked bread topped with large flakes of sea salt and fennel seeds and served with a mustard butter. The mamaliga fritters were a bit hit and miss for us but we aren't huge fans of polenta. I was expecting a higher ratio of the vegan goats cheese filling to the outer layer of polenta and the quantity of vegan cheese didn't seem to be consistent between the balls with some of them containing a very small amount. The accompanying sauce tasted great and made the fritters a bit more interesting.

I would also like to add that the waiting staff at Gasometer are very accommodating about taking home leftovers for those times when you happen to order too much food. It's a difficult task to get the man interested in trying other places these days as Gasometer's food has totally won him over.

Gasometer's new menu hasn't had much coverage since I last reviewed it. Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe is the only veg*n blogger I could find that has posted about it recently.

484 Smith St, Collingwood
Ph: 9417 5538

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Borage and tofu ricotta cannelloni

There has been a patch of borage in our front garden for several years which is pretty much impossible to get rid of. The borage plants have been removed on weeding days although they are incredibly resilient and always reappear before long. The plants have lovely bright blue flowers which happen to be edible and look very pretty as a salad garnish so I've been quite happy for the plants to remain in the garden as long as they are under control.

The man had been complaining about them recently and was threatening to do another borage cull. It led me to think that if the flowers are edible perhaps it is also the case with other parts of the plant. It turned out that my hunch was right! Searching on the internet led me to fascinating discoveries about this formerly pesky plant, the leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. I've been excitedly talking about using borage in recipes ever since!

Borage soup was the most common hit when searching for recipes and not far behind was a regional dish from Liguria, Italy for borage and ricotta ravioli. The Spanish parboil the leaves and then deep fry them and the Polish use borage to flavour pickled gherkins. I was very tempted to try out a soup first and then figured I may have better success with converting my fellows onto the borage bandwagon with a pasta dish. Ravioli sounded like a bit too much work so I went with making cannelloni instead.

Some care needed to be taken when picking leaves from the plants as the older leaves are covered in fine spines. The spines are supposed to disappear when they come into contact with liquid so I was a bit concerned when they remained after soaking them in water. When I had cooked them in a stockpot they were almost gone although there were still a few remaining.

I used my broccoli and tofu ricotta cannelloni recipe as the basis and tweaked it a little. On occasion my pasta dough hasn't worked out terribly well using half semolina, half flour so I went back to a straight flour mix this time and gave the dough a decent knead before it's resting period. For the filling I increased the amount of nutritional yeast and salt and also added in some lemon juice and nutmeg.

The young man was very surprised that it didn't taste awful, in fact he rather enjoyed the meal. He had misgivings about borage due to it's name. He was associating it with porridge which he doesn't like at all as their names are pronounced the same way. From what I had read, it was supposed to have a mild cucumber taste although mixed up in the cannelloni it was difficult to get a proper sense of it's flavour. It's appearance reminded me of a spinach cannelloni yet it had a slightly chewier texture.

It was pleasing that we all enjoyed the meal, especially as the star of the show was plucked from the garden and has been growing like a weed. The real test will be how we fare with something like borage soup which I'm planning to try soon. I'll leave you with a few tidbits about borage that you may find interesting as well as the recipe.

Interesting facts about borage
  • The origins of borage can be traced back to Syria and it's cultivation spread throughout the Mediterranean.
  • It is an annual herb that was traditionally used for culinary purposes and as a medical remedy.
  • Nautropaths use borage to treat PMS and menopause symptoms. It has anti-inflammatory properties which diminishes respiratory symptoms.
  •  Borage is used for companion planting with legumes, spinach, the brassica family, strawberries and tomatoes. 
  • They attract lots of bees to the garden. Can you spot one in the photo?
  • 100g of borage contains 10% of your daily needs of calcium and 20% of your daily requirements of iron so it's a great thing for veg*ns to eat. It's also a very good source of Vitamins A and C. 

Resources used when researching borage

Borage and tofu ricotta cannelloni (Adapted from my other cannelloni recipe)

Pasta dough

1 1/2 cup plain flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil

Place the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl, mix together thoroughly and make a well in the centre. Pour the water and olive oil into the well and work the flour into the water slowly until the mixture comes together. Turn it out onto a clean bench and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

Borage and tofu filling

400g fresh borage leaves, washed thoroughly
350g firm tofu
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch nutmeg

Bring some water to the boil in a stockpot. Cook the borage leaves for 2-3 minutes or until wilted. Drain into a colander then rinse with cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Place the cooked borage, tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, lemon juice and nutmeg into a food processor bowl and pulse for about a minute. The resulting mixture should be soft and crumbly and the borage finely chopped.

Tomato sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
700ml jar tomato passata
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the tomato passata, basil and salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with pepper to taste.

Cannelloni assembly

Use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll out thin sheets of pasta. Cut out rectangular shapes of pasta measuring the width of your baking tray. Place a line of the filling down the centre of the pasta, then roll up to enclose the filling. Repeat until the pasta or filling runs out.

Spread about 1/4 of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish. Place the cannelloni tubes in the tray then cover with the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180C for 40 minutes or until bubbling.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tofu "fish" fingers with tartare sauce

Over the past year or so I have tried a few fish substitute recipes using tofu and none of them really hit the spot. I didn't bother posting about any of these unsatisfactory experiences and continued searching for a better recipe. Last week I tried one that was so good it was immediately requested to go onto high rotation.

I bookmarked a recipe for crispy tofu scallops from cookbook author Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog earlier this year and was interested to try it out as the tofu was marinated prior to being crumbed and fried. Other recipes I had attempted before this one had been battered in a seafood flavoured mixture. Rather than cut the tofu into the shape of scallops as Bryanna had done which would have resulted in leftover tofu scraps, I cut my tofu into strips to resemble fish fingers.  

The recipe sounded fantastic so I didn't want to change too much and only substituted a few ingredients that weren't on hand at home. The absence of dulse or nori flakes in my pantry was of no concern as I was certain that shredding half a sheet of nori would suffice. It did do the job although I would probably use a full sheet next time around. I'm always a little cautious when mimicking seafood flavours as they have never really been my thing. Bryanna had used a type of cereal made of bran flakes which gave her scallops a crunchy coating, I was quite happy to use some wholemeal breadcrumbs this time around.

Bryanna's accompanying tartare sauce recipe wasn't going to work out with the ingredients I had available and after a quick search I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that almost suited my needs. I substituted a couple of gherkins and some fresh dill for the sweet pickle relish and asked the man to be my taste tester as he has much more expertise eating tartare sauce than I do.  

The crispy outer layer of the "fish" fingers combined with the tender tofu within was incredible and the tartare sauce paired perfectly with them. I'm tempted to to give this a try with frozen and thawed tofu another time for comparative purposes although this is a recipe I don't think I'll be playing around with too much.

Tofu "fish" fingers (Adapted from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen)

350g firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetarian stir fry sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tablespoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ - 1 sheet of nori, shredded in a spice grinder
½ cup plain flour
½ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 crusts wholemeal bread, processed into breadcrumbs
Peanut oil or other vegetable oil, for shallow frying

Cut the tofu into thirds lengthwise, then cut each piece of tofu into 6 even sized sticks. Whisk together the water, vegetarian stir fry sauce, lemon juice, oilive oil, garlic, sugar, salt and nori in a deep sided dish and add the tofu ensuring that it is well coated in the marinade. Allow to rest covered in the refrigerator for several hours if possible, or at least 30 minutes.

Organise 3 bowls for coating the tofu fingers, plain flour in the first, soy milk mixed with apple cider vinegar in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.

Heat oil in a deep sided frying pan. Test the oil's readiniess by placing a breadcrumb into the oil, if it sizzles the oil is hot enough. Cook the tofu fingers in batches. Fry on one side for about 3 minutes and then flip over and cook on the other side for a further 3 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil.

Tartare sauce (Adapted from allrecipes.com)

½ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Praise 97% fat free)
¼ small brown onion, very finely diced
2 gherkins, very finely diced
1 tablespoon dill, chopped finely

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl at least 30 minutes before serving. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Marinated roasted mushrooms

This recipe had been sitting in my bookmarks for a while with good reason, the young man isn't very fond of mushrooms. He tolerates slices of mushrooms in calzones, pizzas, tofu scrambles and stir frys, however, whole baked mushrooms are a complete turn off for him. I understand they aren't for everyone and remember a time in my childhood when the smell of frying mushrooms that were freshly picked from my Nanna's farm was enough to make me feel ill.

When the young man was out with his friends and there was a decent amount of portobellos in the fridge I knew exactly what we would be having for dinner. I had loved the sound of these marinated roasted mushrooms when I saw the recipe posted on where's the beef as the ingredients in the marinade are my type of flavours. I didn't have quite as many mushrooms so I made a half batch of the marinade, swapped the white wine for red wine as that was what I had on hand and also reduced the amount of oil a smidgen, otherwise I stayed true to the recipe.

I served these tasty juicy mushrooms over quinoa to give the meal a protein boost and because it's something we don't eat very often. This was a cinch to put together, after the mushies and a few extra vegetables went into the oven all I had to worry about was cooking the quinoa just prior to serving. The remaining juices in the baking tray were really full of flavour so I ladled extra over the quinoa after snapping a photo. This is an easy and tasty recipe that I'll happily make again when it's tea for two. 

Marinated roasted mushrooms (Adapted from where's the beef, originally from a recipe on fungi.com)

450g portobello mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
2 large cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 200C.

Brush the mushrooms to ensure they are free of dirt and place into a baking dish with their gills facing up. Whisk the olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and red wine together in a small bowl.

Pour the marinade over the mushrooms ensuring that the gills are completely covered, then scatter the garlic on top of the mushrooms. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Simple satisfying soup

There's nothing better than a bowl of soup to get you through a period of ill health. When the man came home from day surgery a couple of weeks ago I wanted to have a pot of soup ready for him as I had a feeling that his appetite would be diminished. I figured if there was a pot of soup around he may be persuaded to try some. I didn't have the time or inclination to look up recipes, instead I pulled vegetables out of the fridge and decided to make a simple soup based on broccoli as it's one of his favourite vegetables.

The soup turned out to be really lovely and the two of us polished it off in a couple of days. As I forgot to take a photo at the time, I had to make it again. It's a very simple recipe which takes about 10 minutes of preparation, 25 minutes of cooking and a few minutes at the end to blend it into a thick smooth delicious soup. Like most of my other blended soups, I included some red lentils for extra protein and to thicken it up.

I wasn't quite sure if the soup would be flavoursome enough initially and stirred some basil pesto into my bowl, honestly it tasted so much better without it. I love it with a shake or two of white pepper and think that's all it really needs. A mild tasting herb like parsley could also be a nice garnish.

Broccoli soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
2 medium (300g) potatoes, peeled and diced
2 heads (600g) broccoli, stalks and florets roughly chopped
salt and black or white pepper, to taste
fresh parsley chopped, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a stockpot and fry the onions over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the lentils, stock, potatoes and broccoli. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and process in batches until smooth. Pour back into the stockpot and reheat gently. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Moussaka update

When I have time on my hands and I'm in the mood for eating it, I really do love making moussaka. It takes a while to put together the way that I am accustomed to making it, yet I don't want to change the process as I have found that shortcuts are detrimental to it's overall taste. Last year I posted my initial vegan moussaka recipe which I was quite happy with at the time. This recipe has now fallen into the category of a few other recipes of mine where it has evolved into something different so I figured it was time for an update.

The main differences between my latest version and the earlier recipe are the bechamel sauce and I usually don't bother with a feta cheese replacement crumbled into the layers as it is flavoursome enough without it. I made a batch of Johanna's baked almond feta last week so I did add this to one of the layers only because I had it on hand. Another area where I have always fluctuated in the making of this meal is the method of precooking the vegetables. It used to work best with a BBQ hot plate and grill but ours hasn't been in working order for years so I have found that the next best thing to use is the grill function in my oven (with a watchful eye). Precooking the vegetables is the most time consuming part of the moussaka preparation and I believe this is a crucial step as it allows the potatoes and zucchini to soak up the flavours of the sauce whilst baking and gives the eggplant a wonderful smoky flavour.

The bechamel replacement that has become my standard is adapted from the moussaka recipe in Veganomicon. I wasn't attracted to the entire moussaka recipe as it doesn't contain enough eggplant and there is too much potato for my liking although I was very interested in the pine nut crema that is used in the topping. The greatest part about this crema is all of the ingredients are whizzed up in a blender so there is no need to fuss over the stove worrying about getting lumps in your sauce. After I tried out the crema, I made some changes as the standard tub of silken tofu I buy is 300g and the recipe calls for 450g. Silken tofu is one of those things that can linger in my fridge if it's not used immediately so I made some changes to the recipe after I grew tired of wasting leftover tofu. I found that 300g of tofu with half a cup of soy milk and some extra cornflour does just as good a job.  

Another wonderful thing about moussaka is that it makes a large quantity and the leftovers taste fantastic. It's a fantastic dish to take along to gatherings as it can be baked ahead of time and reheated when required.

Moussaka with tomato lentil sauce and pine nut crema (Crema adapted from Veganomicon)

Olive oil spray
1kg eggplant, sliced into 1-2cm thick pieces
500g potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
500g zucchini, sliced thinly
150g baked almond feta, crumbled (optional)

Tomato lentil sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked brown lentils or use a 400g tin, drained and rinsed
700ml jar tomato passata
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ cup water

Pine nut/cashew crema

½ cup pine nuts or raw unsalted cashews
300g silken tofu, drained
½ cup soy milk
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons cornflour
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
pinch nutmeg

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, spray the potato and zucchini slices slightly with olive oil and cook under a griller until slightly browned on both sides. Alternatively, the slices can be fried them in a lightly oiled pan or baked in the oven on tray lined with baking paper until browned on both sides.

After the eggplant has rested for 30 minutes, place the slices in a colander and rinse well. Pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel and grill, fry or bake the eggplant slices until browned on both sides.

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided frying pan over medium heat and cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the chilli flakes (if using), oregano, lentils, passata and salt. Rinse out the passata jar with the water and add this to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

Place the pine nuts or cashews, tofu, soy milk, garlic, cornflour, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg in a blender or food processor and blend until it is completely smooth and no lumps remain.

Preheat the oven to 200C. In a 30cm x 20cm casserole dish, spread out about a quarter of the tomato lentil sauce. Place a third of the eggplant, zucchini and potato slices on top, followed by another quarter of the tomato lentil sauce. Crumble the baked almond feta on top, if using. Repeat the vegetable and sauce layering two more times, then pour the contents of the blender over the top as evenly as possible. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, the top should be firm and starting to brown.