Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 - The unblogged edition

The 18th January marks the anniversary of my blog which has been going for two years now. During 2012 I only managed to publish 101 posts, which was a bit lower than 138 posts in 2011. Challenges on and off throughout the year prevented me from writing as much as I would have have liked and ever since Ollie's arrival in July a lot of my usual free time has been devoted to training and exercising him (which is very rewarding, good exercise and lots of fun). Although it wasn't the most productive year in the blogging sense, there were many recipes from other blogs I tried along the way so here's a round up of a few I can recall (with photos of ones I've been able to locate).  

Post Punk Kitchen - Chesapeake tempeh cakes. Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe posted about this recipe at a time when I was struggling to like tempeh much at all. I found the tempeh in these tasty little "crab" cakes to be very enjoyable although I wasn't particularly fond of the remoulade drizzled on top. I must make these again soon!

Seitan is my motor - Pasta with walnut, mushroom and tempeh sauce. This recipe was given high praise from vegan about town and where's the beef so I was keen to give it a try. Unfortunately it wasn't a winner for us, we didn't enjoy the tempeh in this meal and the flavour of the walnuts in the sauce were too strong for our tastes, so I'll stick to using cashews in creamy pasta sauces.

Holy Cow - Aloo posto. The man and I have a similar distaste for potatoes in curries so I generally steer clear of these types of recipes. I was intrigued by Vaishali's potato based curry as I had never seen a poppy seed paste in a curry previously so I made the recipe with cabbage instead. Even though my blender struggled to break down the poppy seeds completely it was still a very enjoyable dish which my extended family enjoyed too.

Fat Free Vegan - Okara crab cakes. This is an older recipe from Susan V's archives I stumbled upon when searching for okara recipe ideas after making home made tofu. I added the upper end of the stated amount of Old Bay Seasoning (purchased from USA Foods) which resulted in a strong peppery flavour that none of us were particularly fond of.

Inspired eats- Pan fried shiitake mushroom bacon. I was curious to see if a recipe that listed so few ingredients (mushrooms, oil, salt) would actually taste like bacon. The flavour was quite impressive given there was no liquid smoke or smoked paprika involved and they tasted great on baked potatoes with a spicy noochy sauce. It hasn't replaced my favourite tofu bacon but it was fun to try out another facon recipe.

Diet, dessert and dogs - Greek inspired chickpea scramble and Quinoa pizza balls. Both of these recipes tasted fantastic, the chickpea scramble made with besan was full of delicious Mediterranean flavours and is a great alternative to a regular tofu scramble. The quinoa and bean based pizza balls flavoured with tomato paste and herbs turned out a little softer than I expected but they were still lovely to snack on.

Sweet Roots - Coconut milk cheddar - There is something about coconut products that just doesn't work with my palate and I really need to stop experimenting. Heavily spiced coconut based curries are about the only savoury meals where I enjoy coconut and anything else just doesn't appeal. The coconut flavour in this cheese was way too strong for my liking and put me off vegan cheese making for a while.

Wheres the beef - Kentucky Fried Tofu. Cindy's not so secret blend of herbs and spices in this recipe that was written up in the Planet VeGMeL zine last year was really delicious and rather simple to prepare for a slightly indulgent nostalgic meal.

Tales of a Vegan Food Fetishist / Wrapped in Pastry - I'm a huge fan of Leigh Drew's recipes and was rapt to get my guys on board with split peas in her garlic lemon dal recipe as they usually associate split peas with soup. The man and young man were also highly impressed with the Subway style "meatball" subs I made early last year. Pate en croute and pissaldiere (bottom right in the photo above) from Leigh's latest cookbook Wrapped in Pastry were popular at family Christmas gatherings last year. I loved both of these recipes but the man wasn't crazy about the pate en croute.

Vegan Dad - Corned Beef. The man used to have a penchant for corned beef back in the day so I gave this version a try. I wasn't able to track down all of the ingredients and made a couple of substitutions which may have contributed to it's failure. The accompanying white sauce with capers I whipped up wasn't fantastic either. I was sad to read recently that Vegan Dad has farewelled the blogging world as I've enjoyed several recipes from his blog over the years.

Vegan about town - Dan dan mian. I was really disappointed that the man didn't share my enthusiasm for this delicious bowl of noodles and tempeh in a super spicy broth as I was so happy to find another tempeh dish that I enjoyed. We usually have similar tolerances to chilli but on this occasion it was too spicy for him and perfect for me. Perhaps if it's toned down a fraction I may have better success next time?


I would like to finish this post with a huge thank you to all readers of this blog, everyone who has tried a recipe or two, readers that have left me a comment during these years and the many people I have connected with through regular comments on my blog as well as their own. It really means a lot and all of the feedback I receive is much appreciated. I hope you are looking forward to another year of posts with plenty more stopovers from around the world to come!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Around the world - Stopover 26 - Montenegro

Montenegro was drawn out of the hat the week before Christmas which feels like such a long time ago now. I managed to research, plan and cook up a meal during the chaos of the silly season although I haven't had the chance to post about it until now. Montenegro is a small European country located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea which shares borders with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. Montenegrin cuisine varies depending on the region, the coastal areas have a Mediterranean influence whereas inland regions consume dishes that are also common in Turkey, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia.

When I made a version of Bosnian Zeljanica with filo pastry during Vegan Mofo, I mentioned that I would have liked the opportunity to attempt making burek pastry if I had more time on my hands. Even though time was limited again on this occasion, I stubbornly wanted to give a Montenegrin burek called krompirusa a try. Krompirusa is a snail shaped burek filled with finely cubed potatoes and onions that have been precooked in vegetable stock.

The recipes I adapted my version from were written in Serbian or Croatian and with the aid of Google translate it still was a challenge to make complete sense of the ingredients and methods. My long bench top was an essential tool in preparing the krompirusa and even though I split the dough into two pieces to make smaller bureks, the length of the pastry measured just under 2 metres! After the lengths of dough were rolled out, filling and shaping the krompirusa didn't take much time at all.

As I wasn't sure how flavoursome the filling would be, I searched for an accompaniment and decided to make a dip/relish based on roasted red capsicum/bell peppers called ajvar. It wasn't incredibly complicated to make although it wasn't the speediest process either as the vegetables needed to be oven roasted and onion and garlic sautéed prior to processing it all into a paste.  

After all the effort that went into the meal I wasn't impressed with the texture of pastry as it wasn't light and flaky as you would expect from a burek so I'm back to the drawing board with this type of dough. Regardless of the unsatisfactory pastry, the krompirusa tasted fantastic and was surprisingly delicious on it's own. The ajvar was a fantastic partner for the krompirusa and would be perfect to serve alongside a bunch of other dips so I've included my version of it below.

Ajvar (Adapted from Todd's wanderings)

3 small red capsicums/bell peppers
1 lebanese eggplant
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 240C. Place the capsicums and eggplant on a roasting tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the skins have charred. Flip the vegetables over and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and when they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins from the capsicum and eggplant and discard the seeds and membranes from the capsicums.

While the vegetables are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small frying pan and sauté the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute then turn off the heat and set aside.

Place the cooked eggplants and capsicum in a food processor along with the onion/garlic mixture, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt, remaining tablespoon of olive oil and black pepper. Process until it becomes a smooth paste, then transfer to a serving dish.


Did you know?

The Montenegrin people are reportedly the world's tallest. The average height for males is 186 cm (6 feet, 1 inch) and the average for women is 171 cm (5 feet, 7 inches).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favourite foods from 2012

Happy belated new year to all my readers! I hope everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable and restful festive season full of delicious food.

Apologies for such a lengthy break between posts, it feels like ages since my last post was published and I'm also way behind in responding to reader comments as well as reading other blogs. After my family Christmas obligations ended, we spent a few days away camping in the bush which was relaxing as we spent our days swimming, playing with Ollie and watching the different native birds in the area. Instead of being rejuvenated by the camping experience, I picked up a bug just after we got home (the first illness I've had in over 2.5 years!) and have been feeling extremely worn out after dragging myself back to work last week. Now that my head is finally feeling clearer, it's time to get back on track with the first of a couple of posts I've been working on to sum up 2012 in my kitchen.

Favourite soupSmoky cauliflower (and tofu bacon) soup. With or without tofu bacon this simple blended soup has become a household favourite. Red lentils are a sneaky ingredient to provide the soup with added protein and make it a more substantial bowl.

Favourite Mexican meal - Tofu adobe with refried beans. This has become our standard Mexican meal, when Mexican is requested this is what my fellows are after! We pile refried beans from Viva Vegan along with Tofu with adobe paste (from the Tofu Xpress recipe booklet) onto tortillas with some lettuce, tomato, cashew cream, guacamole and hot sauce. There's an art to how much filling you can load in the tortillas before they become a very messy eating experience.

Favourite meal that can be served anytime of the day - Mexican inspired tofu scramble. I've been making this scramble for such a long time and it never fails to satisfy our taste buds. It's loaded up with heaps of veggies and beans and pairs well with toast for an easy dinner or wrapped into tortillas for breakfast burritos.

Favourite fried food - Tofu “fish” fingers with tartare sauce. We adore Bryanna Clark Grogan's tofu "fish" recipe and have scoffed them down on a few occasions. I also tried a baked version with a polenta coating but they turned out rather dry so I recommend shallow or deep frying them for the the ultimate eating experience.

Favourite finger foodGobi (cauliflower) pakoras are superb when paired with a coriander chutney from Vegan Eats World. I made these a few times by frying them in a wok and have been meaning to make them again in our relatively new deep fryer.

Favourite noodles - Steph from vegan about town's Char Kueh Teow recipe isn't actually restricted to our favourite noodle dish of 2012, it first appeared in my kitchen in 2011 and has been on semi-regular rotation since. It's a super tasty meal for minimal effort.

Favourite quick mealSmoky Alfred with broccoli, asparagus, spinach or broad beans. I've been making this pasta dish for years (originally based on Hurry Up Alfredo in Vegan Yum Yum) and we never tire of it for a speedy weeknight meal. I change it up frequently by adding in some seasonal greens and enjoy it with tofu bacon on occasion too.

Favourite from around the world posts - Sri Lankan pan rolls. Although they took a couple of attempts to perfect, I've been very happy with my version of these deep fried snacks that we used to enjoy years ago. Stay tuned for another delicious Sri Lankan snack soon which I've been playing around with recently.

Favourite sweet - Sfoof (Semolina cake) and Chocolate chip cookies. As I rarely feel the urge to eat sweet things I'm leaving this one up to my fellows. Bryanna Clark Grogan's semolina cake with lemon or lime syrup from World Vegan Feast was the definite winner for the man last year, when he is craving a cake this is what he always asks me to make. The young man's choice is slightly more mundane, chocolate chip cookies are his fave which is fairly predictable coming from a teenage boy.

Number 1 household favourite - Calzones. The regularity of our calzone nights has dropped back from fortnightly to about once a month but they are still without a doubt the recipe I am requested to make if I ask the others what they feel like eating. I can't imagine them disappearing from meal rotations in the near future either!