Friday, November 30, 2012

Low fuss camping food

Over the last couple of decades camping trips with friends, family and the young man have been a popular pastime of ours. These trips have varied widely in locations yet there is a particular spot in between Seymour and Nagambie we have returned to more than others as dogs are permitted and to be able to swim in a creek with your pooch is so much fun for all. The other bonus is this place is it's generally not overcrowded with people which is often the case with more popular camping locations.

After a recent failed attempt trying out a new camping site that was full to the brim on a long weekend, the man and I were keen to head back to our rugged place of serenity. As we were only camping overnight I decided to make the food completely low fuss and picked up some supplies from Oasis bakery. This also meant packing less as we didn't need to worry about bringing the camp stove, gas bottle and cooking utensils.

Not long after arriving and setting up the tent, we constructed some delicious falafel wraps in a matter of minutes. They were made with mountain bread, hummus, falafels, a mixture of salad leaves, tomato, red onion and a dash of Tapatio hot sauce. Ollie doesn't usually get the chance to be involved in food photography and jumped at the chance on this occasion! He is very well mannered around food and didn't think about taking a bite.

Our dinner plates consisted of dolmades, more falafels, baba ganoush, hummus, olive bread and a bean stew. I was on the verge of buying a chickpea or bean salad whilst shopping at Oasis but after I spotted a bean stew the thought of a salad was immediately dismissed. The bean stew was labelled as being spicy yet the man thought it needed more oomph and stirred through a decent amount of hot sauce before we served it up. Although this is something you would usually eat warm we thoroughly enjoyed it as a cold dish. A similar spread was also enjoyed for breakfast the following morning.

These foods were perfect for an overnight camping trip and I can imagine they would also be great for remote road trips where vegan foods are limited. Even though I'm fortunate to have a fantastic Middle Eastern bakery nearby, some of the items we took away can also be sourced from most Australian supermarkets.

Ollie was mortified when we departed after his morning dip and uncharacteristically cried most of the car trip home. We are glad although not surprised that he enjoyed it as much as we did and are keen to take him for a longer camping trip soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 23 - Greece

Greek food makes an appearance every so often in my kitchen. Moussaka, spanakopita and seitan gyros in home made pita bread are some of our favourite Greek dishes that I make on a semi regular basis. One of our highest rotation recipes from Vegan Eats World is Terry Hope Romero's oven roasted gyros made with chickpea and olive seitan because my fellows adore it and request it often. Despite being an avid hater of olives, it's the only meal where the young man will eat them as their strong flavour blends into the seitan so they are barely detectable. When Greece was drawn it was no surprise that I was hounded for gyros wraps to be on the menu again. On this occasion I made a similar tofu based garlic sauce to one I've previously posted about and added a touch of fresh dill.

All of the Greek recipes from Vegan Eats World that I tested were full of flavour and thoroughly enjoyed. I didn't get the chance to try Yemista (capsicums and tomatoes stuffed with rice) during testing and I still hadn't made anything new since the book arrived so I was well overdue for branching out into a new dish. Yemista take a little while to prepare although there was plenty of slack time whilst they were baking in the oven. The dill and mint flavoured rice filling was lovely and the Yemista paired wonderfully with some left-over oven roasted gyros and pita bread. This is another fantastic Greek recipe from Terry!

After flicking through World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan, I found some Greek recipes and picked out a Gigante bean and chard stew as I knew it would please the man. Due to time limitations I wasn't very faithful to the recipe. The tofu feta was omitted, the silverbeet/chard was simmered in the stew rather than pre-cooking it separately and as I cooked it on the stovetop rather than in the oven, it didn't make sense to top it with breadcrumbs. The use of tinned lima beans would have made this meal an even speedier process. It was still a very tasty meal with these changes, the flavour of the dill was the highlight amongst the onions, tomatoes, beans and silverbeet/chard. A slice of toasted olive bread from Crumbs Organic Bakehouse was the perfect tool to clean our plates with.

Gigante bean and silverbeet stew (Adapted from World Vegan Feast)

250g dried lima beans or 2 x 400g tins lima beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 spring onions, chopped
2 cups vegan "chicken" stock
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 bunch silverbeet/chard leaves, washed well and chopped

If using dried lima beans, place them in a large bowl, cover well with water and allow to soak for at least 8 hours. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Place the beans in a saucepan and fill with water so there is about 5cm of water above the beans. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender (mine took about 2 hours).

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and fry the onions and spring onions until they have softened and are beginning to brown. Add the drained beans, "chicken" stock, tomatoes, dill, salt and pepper. Stir through the chopped silverbeet/chard in batches until each batch has softened and reduced in size slightly. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes.


Did you know?

Greece is the world’s third leading producer of olives. The Greeks have been cultivating olive trees since ancient times and there are some olive trees still producing olives that were planted in the thirteenth century.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Veg*n shopping in the South Eastern suburbs

Every so often a reader will enquire about where an uncommon ingredient for a recipe can be purchased from. I'm always more than happy to assist yet I thought it would also be helpful to write some posts about my food shopping sources. My plan is to include these posts on a shopping index page soon. The below text had already been written for the Planet VeGMeL birthday zine and to get the ball rolling I've posted it here.

If you haven't done so already, take a look at the fabulous zine for many more interesting veg*n articles. The Kentucky Fried Tofu recipe supplied by where's the beef is really delicious too!

When I started reading blogs years ago I loved finding out about interesting veg*n places around Melbourne to stock up on goodies. The only problem was gems like Radical Grocery, La Panella, Vincent Vegetarian Food etc. were on the opposite side of town for me so it’s not often that I pop into these shops. Although there aren’t any exclusively veg*n shops I’m aware of in my area, there are a few stores I visit often to replenish the supplies in my pantry.

USA Foods -
110 Cochranes Road, Moorabbin
9555 0288

USA Foods interests me most for their range of liquid smokes, chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, tomatillos, masa flours and other various types of chillies and hot sauces. A huge proportion of their stock is made up of soft drinks, potato chips and confectionery so I steer clear of these aisles and focus on hunting down items for my next Mexican feast.

Their online product catalogue indicates when a particular item is out of stock and provides an option for an email notification to be sent to you when the item becomes available again. It’s handy to check the website before heading out there to avoid disappointment!

Oasis Bakery -
9/993 North Road, Murrumbeena
9570 1122

Oasis Bakery is a very popular Middle Eastern bakery that has been thriving for many years. The name is rather misleading as Oasis isn’t limited to selling freshly baked goods; it’s also a cafe and a grocery store. I haven’t eaten from the cafe for ages but before going vegan I used to love their cheese and spinach triangles and pizzas. Some of the tasty vegan options available are falafel wraps, zaatar pizzas, spinach and walnut triangles as well as a couple of suitable hot dishes in the bain marie like ful medames and a veg dish of the day.

Freshly made dips, salads, falafels, dolmades and harissa can be found in the fridge section. A variety of pizzas and triangles can be purchased fresh or frozen. Vegan sweets aren’t as plentiful although I did enjoy some coconut and date rolls recently as well as peppermint chocolate. All products are clearly labelled and a great thing about Oasis is that they do not use palm oil in any of their products. My favourite sections these days are the bean and spice aisles. Every type of dried bean imaginable is available and the variety of spices and spice blends on the shelves is enough to make your head spin.

Sunnybrook Health
553 North Road, Ormond
9578 6400

Sunnybrook is my local health food shop; it has a big focus on gluten free foods although it is not 100% gluten free. I've been shopping here for years to pick up items like nutritional yeast, unusual types of flours, Sweet William cooking chocolate, Soymilke condensed milk, Cheezly, smoked tofu, the occasional Tofutti product and ironically gluten flour. Sunnybrook also has a small section of organic fruit and vegetables and stocks personal care and household products.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 22 - Singapore

The small island country of Singapore is located on the southern part of Malay peninsula, separated from Malaysia by a narrow strait of water. Malaysian food is commonly found in Singapore as well as Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern and Western dishes. Noodle dishes are always popular at our house so I happily selected a few to make from an abundance of choices and due to my unsatisfactory attempt at making murtabak for Brunei I was also keen to give this another try.

This version of murtabak was adapted from a Singaporean recipe with a promising blend of spices (no cardamon overload in this version!) and I used lentils and mushrooms instead of tempeh this time. Murtabak usually has egg in the filling so I seasoned some crumbled tofu with kala namak (black salt) prior to mixing it with the rest of the filling ingredients.

I also wanted to try making the roti and watched a few videos on YouTube of murtabak being made in market places. It was a bit daunting to see them being prepared with such ease as I knew it wouldn't be the case for a novice yet it also provided me with a few tips and the inspiration I needed. After making the dough, it was rested for an hour in a bowl coated with oil. The oil made the dough very supple and created an elastic texture that is required for it to be stretched out to a paper thin consistency. My technique was fairly rudimentary after the dough was initially flattened between my palms. I placed the dough on the bench holding one side down and slowly stretched the other side in a flapping motion, if that makes sense! The edges didn't turn out as thin as the centre so I pinched them with my fingertips and stretched them out last as best I could. Perhaps a rolling pin could have been better for this task!

The initial concerns I had about the thin dough not holding the filling went away after the first murtbak was successfully assembled and I gathered some momentum for the remaining ones. We loved the curry dipping sauce last time I made murtabak so I made another one based on a recipe from Munting Kusina. Thai thin soy sauce was substituted for fish sauce and even though I used a hot curry powder it didn't turn out too spicy. This turned out to be one of the favourite meals I have cooked recently. The murtabaks paired with the dipping sauce were so delicious and everyone was disappointed that there weren't any leftovers.

Mee Goreng is one of the man's favourite noodle dishes, he frequently orders it from Chinese/Malaysian restaurants but I haven't been able to replicate it at home as well as I would like. This latest attempt was much closer to how we are used to it although I was a little heavy-handed with the chilli and it still needs a few minor tweaks to the ingredients in the sauce.

Singapore noodles have become rather popular at home since In the Mood for Noodles posted a fantastic recipe last year. This time I tried a recipe from World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I found it interesting that it used jalapeno chillies and smoked tofu as well as seitan or soy curls. I omitted the seitan/soy curls and bumped up the quantity of the smoked tofu instead. Bryanna's version was very tasty and quite spicy although the recipe from In the Mood for Noodles remains the household favourite as it's the most similar to Singapore noodles we have eaten locally.

Murtabak with lentil and mushroom filling (Adapted from MakanTime)
Makes 6

Roti dough

2 cups plain flour
½ heaped teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dairy-free margarine
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil

Combine the flour and salt together in a large bowl, then rub the margarine into the mixture with your fingers. Add the water and mix together . Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then divide it into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large bowl, roll the dough balls in the oil to coat them, then allow them to rest, covered with a tea towel for an hour.


½ cup brown lentils
150g firm tofu, crumbled
¼ teaspoon kala namak (black salt)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
200g button mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup water

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Crumble the tofu into a small bowl. Add the black salt and stir well to combine.

Heat the peanut oil in a deep sided frying pan or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic and ginger for a minute then add the mushrooms and allow them to cook until softened. Add the garam masala, cayenne pepper, turmeric and salt and stir for a minute. Stir through the cooked lentils and the water and allow to cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix the the tofu through. Allow the filling to cool down prior to assembling the murtabaks.


Take a dough ball in your hands and flatten it between your palms. Place it on your bench and carefully stretch out the dough with your hands until it is a rectangular shape and your benchtop can be seen through the dough. Place 1/6 of the filling in the centre of the dough and smooth it into a small rectangle. Wrap the ends of the roti over the filling so it is enclosed like a parcel. Place the roti on a plate seam side down and repeat the steps five more times.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a frying pan and place on medium-high heat. Fry the rotis in batches for a couple of minutes on each side or until browned. Top up with additional oil in between batches as necessary.

Serve with the following curry dipping sauce.

Curry dipping sauce (Adapted from Munting Kusina)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot madras curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
165ml tin (2/3 cup) light coconut milk

Heat the peanut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic for 30 seconds, or until softened but not browned. Add the curry powder, cayenne pepper and turmeric and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in the Thai thin soy sauce and coconut milk and bring to the boil then turn off the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a bowl for dipping.


Did you know?

Although Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world, it's population density is the second highest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse in North Melbourne is the newer sister bakery of a larger operation in Ascot Vale that has been around for a couple of years. A whirlwind trip into the city on Saturday morning gave me the chance for a visit to Crumbs to stock up on some goodies to get us through a busy weekend.

Crumbs also serves coffees and has a small bar for eat-ins. All of their baked goods are vegan and organic which meant tough decisions for me. After much deliberation, I ended up buying some chocolate iced and jam-filled donuts ($3.50), pizza slices ($4) and a loaf of olive sourdough bread ($5.50).

The chocolate iced donuts were impressive in size and delivered in taste yet it was the jam donuts that were my favourite. They were filled with a lovely raspberry jam that left the generic "jam" normally used in these types of donuts for dust.

One of the pizza slices was topped with red onions, tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs and the other slice had mushrooms, tomatoes, capsicum and sun-dried tomatoes. Although we normally tend to enjoy pizzas with vegan cheese, I didn't miss it at all on these slices as the chewy sourdough crust was just as enjoyable as the toppings.

The olive sourdough loaf had a crunchy crust, with a soft and airy interior and a mild sour flavour. I enjoyed it fresh and even more over the following days, lightly toasted and smeared with Nuttelex. I would be stopping in to Crumbs regularly for loaves of bread if they had a bakery in my neighbourhood.

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse was brought to my attention recently by American bloggers NutriDude and NutriWife who spent some time in Melbourne on their trip to Australia. The Good Hearted also posted about Crumbs last month and rated it highly. Where's the Beef visited on the same day as me and have also posted a complimentary review.

There were a few other veg*n blogs that mentioned sampling Crumbs foods at various places a few years ago - vegan about town, In the Mood for Noodles and Eat More Veggies.

Crumbs Organic Bakehouse
16 Errol St, North Melbourne

Monday to Friday - 6:30am - 6pm
Saturday - 8:30am - 3pm
Sundays - Closed

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 21 - Myanmar (Burma)

Burmese cuisine draws it's influences from the neighbouring countries of India, China and Thailand. Burmese food is not entirely new to me as we used to eat at a Thai/Burmese restaurant years ago. Our favourite dishes were always Burmese curries (I posted a recipe for one earlier this year) which tastes like a combination of Thai and Indian food. Although Burmese curries are lovely, I wanted to try something different which wasn't difficult as I found plenty of dishes that sounded really good.

After I posted about making tofu a few weeks ago, Mandee commented that she wanted to try making chickpea tofu. Up until then I hadn't heard of chickpea tofu and discovered that it was a traditional Burmese recipe which originated from a fusion of Chinese styled tofu with Indian chickpea flour (besan). When Burma was drawn next I had to give it a try!

I looked up a few recipes, one of them seemed just as involved as the soy-based tofu making process and another on BestOodles sounded quick and easy so I referred to the latter. It was simply a matter of bringing water to the boil with some margarine and whisking through a slurry made with chickpea flour, water, turmeric, salt and sugar. About 5 minutes later, the mixture becomes incredibly thick and difficult to stir. After spooning it into a greased dish/tin the chickpea tofu is refrigerated for 4 hours, then it is ready to use.

BestOodles also listed a recipe for a Burmese tofu salad which contained a couple of fishy ingredients so I made a few changes to the dressing and the garnish. The recipe also included tamarind juice which sounded like a bit of a process to make from scratch so I subbed in tamarind puree in it's place. This was another simple dish which required a bit of chopping, mixing the dressing and putting it all together at the end. The dressing was very spicy although it really makes the dish and if you choose to serve it individually, you can go as crazy (or not) with the dressing as you like.

World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan contained one Burmese recipe which was a dal with roasted cauliflower. I adore dals especially when they have an added vegetable so I had to give it a go. This also came together pretty easily, while the lentils were simmering, the onion, garlic and spices were fried and the cauliflower was roasted in the oven. The dal was lovely, it contained a decent amount of spices and I enjoyed the addition of roasted cauliflower.

I'm not usually the biggest salad lover but the Burmese salad was the stand-out dish of the night. The texture of the chickpea tofu was fairly soft and probably fell somewhere in between silken and firm tofu. Chickpea tofu is also commonly fried so I'm planning to put this to the test with the remaining half of the batch.

Burmese tofu - Shan tohu (Adapted from BestOodles)

4 cups water, divided
1 tablespoon dairy free margarine
1 ½ cups chickpea flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon turmeric

Bring a pot containing 2 ½ cups of water and the margarine to the boil. Whisk together the chickpea flour, 1 ½ cups water, salt, sugar and turmeric in a bowl. Whisk the chickpea flour slurry through the boiling water, reduce the heat to low and continue to stir for about 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Pour the mixture into a 20 x 20cm greased glass dish or baking tray. Tap the dish on the surface of your bench to remove air bubbles and smooth out the top with a knife or the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Use within one week of making.

Burmese salad - Tophu thohk (Adapted from BestOodles)

2 tablespoons chilli oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind puree
2 small cloves garlic, minced
½ small cabbage, finely shredded
4 spring onions, finely sliced
fresh coriander sprigs
½ quantity Burmese tofu, sliced
fried shallots, for garnish
shredded nori or dulse flakes, for garnish (optional)

Whisk together chilli oil, sesame oil, Thai thin soy sauce, tamarind puree and garlic in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage and spring onions together.

Arrange the cabbage and spring onions on serving plates followed by a couple of sprigs of coriander and some slices of Burmese tofu. Drizzle some of the chilli, sesame, soy sauce and tamarind dressing over the top. Garnish with fried shallots and nori or dulse flakes if desired.


Did you know?

Burma is technologically behind the rest of the developed nations. Up until two months ago there were no ATMs, there is a limited mobile phone network, internet access is scarce, and people commonly use a horse and cart for transportation.