Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Asparagus and kale with leeks and basil

It took such a long time for me to jump onto the kale bandwagon and lately I've been loving it! I purchased a bunch of organic kale from the Vic Market a few years ago for what I thought was an exorbitant price for such a limp, miserable looking bunch of greens. The meal I used it in was underwhelming so I grumpily put kale in the too-hard basket for a while as it also wasn't available around my local area at the time. Kale seems to have been growing in popularity over the years and as I've recently seen it appear at my local green grocer, farmers markets and even some supermarkets, it was well and truly time to cast my former doubts aside and give it another try.

When I purchased some baby leeks and kale recently and the first asparagus of the season, a long lost recipe sprang to mind to try with these vegetables. The recipe originated from a fairly uninteresting mini cookbook I impulsively bought from a supermarket that ultimately ended up being sent to charity during a spring clean along with many other unloved cookbooks. Although it's been years since I've made this side dish, the ingredients were still clear in my mind - leek, garlic, asparagus, spinach, basil and cream. The cream was never a big selling point for me, the combination of leeks, garlic and basil is the highlight which works beautifully with the greens.

After serving this up I was amazed that my fellows actually remembered the dish and happy that we all enjoyed it just as much as the original. I've since made this with silverbeet/chard leaves in place of kale and added both these greens at the same time because silverbeet leaves don't take as long to cook as kale. As long as you are familiar with the cooking times for your chosen greens, I'm sure this could be adapted with a variety of different green vegetables. Just don't leave out the leeks, garlic or basil and don't think about substituting onion for leek either!

Asparagus and kale with leeks and basil

1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
4 baby leeks (or use 1-2 regular leeks), thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8-10 asparagus spears
1/2 bunch tuscan kale
10-12 basil leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut each spear in half. Remove the tough centre stalks from each piece of kale then roll the leaves up and roughly chop.

Heat the dairy-free margarine in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the leeks and garlic for 3 minutes or until softened, then add the kale and a splash of water. Cover and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the asparagus. Cover again and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the asparagus is tender then stir through the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gluten free polenta cake for potluck

Gluten free baking is something I've been meaning to try for ages. Unfamiliar cooking styles like this can seem rather daunting at first and failures in the kitchen are never fun which is probably why I had put it off for so long. A vegan, gluten free potluck to celebrate the 3rd birthday of Planet VeGMeL was exactly the motivation I needed to delve into the world of gluten free baking (Planet VeGMeL is a site containing an aggregated feed of 57 Melbourne based veg*n bloggers which my blog has proudly been a part of since it's inception).

Last year I mistakenly included miso in what I thought were going to be gluten free tofu quiches for the potluck so I was extra careful to check every single ingredient that went into this cake. I was also mindful to ensure my cake tin was free of traces of crumbs from previous baking. Bryanna Clark Grogan's semolina cake has been enjoyed by us a few times now so I decided to attempt a gluten free version of this for the potluck.

After spending time looking up substitutes on gluten free baking sites, fine polenta appeared to be the best replacement for semolina. There were many options as a cake/pastry flour alternative and as I had an unopened packet of a gluten free flour mix in the pantry I decided to give this a shot. This cake took 5 minutes longer to bake than the semolina version and came out with a few cracks on top which wasn't necessarily a bad thing as it provided extra areas for the syrup to drizzle into.

As a initial gluten free baking experience it wasn't a bad effort yet I wasn't entirely impressed as I preferred the original version so much more. Having said that, I'm not the biggest fan of polenta and didn't really appreciate the texture. Regardless of how I felt about the cake, it was lovely to catch up with other bloggers again and share some delicious food. If you haven't done so already, check out the fantastic zine which a few bloggers contributed to and Danni did a wonderful job of editing. Happy birthday Planet VeGMeL and here's to many more!

Gluten free polenta cake with lemon syrup (Adapted from World Vegan Feast)

¾ cup raw sugar
¾ cup water
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1½ cups fine polenta
½ cup gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups raw sugar
1 cup soy milk
zest of 1 lemon
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pistachios, chopped roughly

Place the sugar, water and lemon zest in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir through the lemon 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 or spray lightly with olive oil. Combine the gluten free flour, polenta, turmeric, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. With a hand held mixer, beat together the soy milk, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the dry ingredients as well as 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 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool 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 approximately half of the cooled lemon syrup on top. The remainder of the syrup can be refrigerated in a sealed container for later use.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Planet VeGMeL 3rd birthday picnic and Vegan MoFo 2012

Planet VeGMeL

Just a reminder that the picnic potluck to celebrate the 3rd birthday of Planet VeGMeL is on tomorrow at the Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy at 1pm. Bloggers and readers are welcome to attend and bring a plate of vegan food (gluten-free if possible). Check the Facebook page for last minute updates before you head out there if the weather is looking sketchy. Last year's event was a lot of fun and I'm sure this one will be even bigger and better than the last!

The past year has flown by and it's almost time for Vegan MoFo again! The sign up form has just been launched which is available here. For the uninitiated, the aim of Vegan MoFo is to write a minimum of 20 posts for the month of October which is a lot of work but it's also rewarding and fun, especially if you set yourself a theme to work with. Even if you're not up for participating in the event, it's a fantastic month for blog reading as there were around 700 worldwide bloggers participating last year! I'll post a link to the rss feed when it's available for anyone interested in having their reader inundated with non-stop salivating vegan posts for the month. The deadline for participants wishing to sign up is the 26th September.  

Here's a summary of my A-Z themed posts from Vegan MoFo 2011.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Buffalo tofu with ranch dipping sauce

A couple of weeks ago, the man and I went back to Gasometer as we heard that the menu had changed again! I was delighted to find buffalo tofu strips back on the menu as I never had the chance to try them previously. We were both smitten with the spicy dense sticks of tofu and their accompanying dipping sauce so I wanted to try and replicate them at home. I had a secret ingredient up my sleeve to make life easier, a buffalo wing spice mix I had purchased from USA Foods ages ago which contained four simple ingredients - chile, red jalapeno, salt and garlic.

The buffalo wing mix came with a recipe for making wings which didn't really suit my purpose although it wasn't entirely useless either. I scaled down the marinade quantities to suit my block of tofu and when I couldn't make up my mind about frying or baking the tofu, I split the batch in half and put both methods to the test. There didn't turn out to be a lot of difference between these methods, I would say the baked tofu was slightly chewier and firmer than the fried version. I sought out a vegan ranch dipping sauce recipe to have with the tofu on VegWeb which was a breeze to mix together and the perfect cooling condiment to tone down the spices a little.

Recently we have made concerted efforts to seek out local farmers markets on weekends when time permits (stay tuned for another post on this soon). Last weekend I was pleased to bring home a bunch of organic baby purple carrots, baby leeks and kale amongst other things. The buffalo tofu was teamed up with some baked potato wedges with smoked paprika and salt, sauteed baby carrots with garlic and parsley and sauteed kale with baby leeks and a dash of lemon. Everyone agreed that the side dishes were just as delicious as the tofu. The buffalo tofu was really tasty and spicy yet not quite on the same level as Gasometer's fantastic version. As there is a large portion of the packet mix remaining this will definitely be on the menu again.

Buffalo Tofu (Adapted from Los Chileros buffalo wing mix)

350g firm tofu
1 tablespoon Los Chileros buffalo wing mix
1 ½ tablespoons vegan worchestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Press tofu for 30 minutes. Cut the block of tofu into thirds lengthwise then cut each piece into six equal sized sticks. Whisk together the buffalo tofu mix, worchestershire sauce and olive oil in a bowl. Add the tofu to the bowl and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Bake the strips in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes. Alternatively, fry in a pan with a little oil over medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve with ranch dressing.

Ranch dipping sauce (Adapted from VegWeb)

½ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Praise 97% fat free)
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate until required.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A series of scrambles (part 3)

I've been going through a slightly less productive period in the kitchen recently due to time constraints. Instead of being motivated to cook new meals 3 to 4 times a week, this figure has dwindled down to 1 or 2. Old favourites like pot pies, adobe tofu with refried beans, smoky alfred and a few curries have happily made their way back into our tummies whilst the new meals haven't been worthy of a post. This seemed like a perfect time to continue on with my series of scrambles.

A curried tofu scramble was created earlier this year to appease the man. He requested a tofu scramble flavoured with curry powder that would be somewhat reminiscent of curried eggs. I loaded this up with vegetables and also added some beans in a similar fashion to my Mexican scramble. Kala namak (black salt) is used in place of regular salt to replicate the eggy flavour. The amount of curry powder in the recipe could be adjusted to suit various tastes, I'm not shy when using spices so I would recommended adding a teaspoon or two at a time until you are satisfied with the spice level. This makes a huge batch which is enough to feed the three of us for dinner as well as providing ample leftovers for lunches.

If you have missed the first two parts of my series of scrambles, click here to read part 1 and here for part 2.

Curried tofu scramble

1 head broccoli, stalk cut into pieces and small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
150g button mushrooms, sliced
700g firm tofu
5 teaspoons curry powder (use less curry powder for a milder version)
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 ½ teaspoons black salt (kala namak)
½ cup water
3 small carrots (200g), grated
1 large zucchini (400g), grated
1 x 400g tin black eyed beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
75g baby spinach

Lightly steam the broccoli and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large deep sided frying pan, add the onion 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 juices. Crumble in the tofu with your hands then stir through the curry powder, nutritional yeast and black salt.

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