Saturday Night Treats – Two Happy Tummys

I hate being vegan…I never have anything tasty to eat. Its basically all lettuce and dust (for the little Britain fans out there!)

This couldn’t be farther from the truth…as I now find myself nearly 2.5yrs vegan one thing I’ve noticed is that my tastebuds are constantly firing as new or interesting flavours surprise them. I can truly say that the last 2.5yrs have been nothing but an opportunity for me as I have tried more different foods on a regular basis and challenged myself to cook and try more things that I probably did in the previous years combined. When I became vegan I said I wasn’t going to focus on what i’d lost (re cheese lamentation) and instead focus on what I’d gained.

I have gained so much. I couldn’t be more thankful for my dear friend Elsie who challenged me to go down this road with her. I consider my lifestyle change to be a blessing.

This weekend saw a few firsts…I ate my first fresh fig in nearly ten years and couldn’t figure out why I’d ever stopped. They are amazing. I caught up with a dear friend who I haven’t really been able to catch up with for a while and she has recently become dairy free and it was so wonderful to have that time together. And I made the most sensational (sorry to sing my own praises) dinner for my husband and I on Saturday night.

I made us a creamy pumpkin soup with a baked cashew camembert. I have to say, genuinely, I could have kept eating it until I made myself unwell.

I am a sucker for a pumpkin soup as is my hubby. The baked camembert was a first. The soup is a staple. If you are keen to try the camembert…check out Bosh on Facebook and scroll through their page. I literally saw it on Saturday morning and basically fantasised about it all day deciding to make it that same evening. I can’t share the recipe for that as it was in a video with no URL but it wouldn’t be hard to find. Search for Camembosh! It was absolutely worth the 5 mins it took me to blend it and the 20 mins of baking for the end result. Its pretty garlicky though…so be warned if you aren’t a fan.

So my soup…I thought I’d share this love-filled, heart-warmer with you all. As that’s the only way to make it, with love.

Jac’s Pumpkin Soup

  • half pumpkin – sliced and de-seeded
  • 1 brown onion – chopped for frying
  • 2 red skinned potatoes – chopped for roasting – but smaller than you would usually for roasting
  • 5 garlic cloves whole – for roasting
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch tumeric
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped – for frying
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 carton soy / rice cream
  • 1 cup soy milk (or oat if you can’t have soy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut or coconut oil for roasting
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Tablespoon sugar (Any kind)
  • tablespoon vegan butter for frying

Pop the oven on to about 180, fan based. Put the pumpkin, potatoes and garlic in a baking tray (with tinfoil or non stick under them) and cover with about a tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt. Make sure covered. Pop in over to roast for about 40 minutes (check once and shake them around a bit.)

Whilst roasting, fry off the onions and carrots in the butter (onions first until nearly clear and a little browned for flavour). Into the pan pop the turmeric and fry the veg until a nice golden brown yellow colour. Pop onto a very low heat until the roasting veggies are done. Once done – add them to the pan and immediately add the stock and the other herbs. Plus two bay leaves. Make sure the veggies are covered and add more stock if required to cover.

Let this delicious mix simmer away on a low heat for about 30 minutes to soften the potatoes completely and for the flavours to infuse.

Post this point add in the soy milk and stir. I then blend straight away – I keep it all in the pan and use a stick blender. Once blended I then add the soy cream and the salt and pepper to taste. I also add the tablespoon of sugar (use whatever variety you prefer it really doesn’t matter). The flavour just helps to bring out the pumpkin.

Then I pop it back on the hob, on number 1 (the lowest temp) and leave it for another 30 minutes to simmer gently away and to let the flavours settle. I usually make this a little ahead of time as it gets better after a few hours. So – if you can, turn the heat off, and leave it cooling on the hob with a lid on for 3-4 hours. Serve later that same day with toasted french stick (or whatever bread you like with your soup) and the camembosh.

Truly truly yummy.

I hope you enjoy it!

And remember, this is another example of what you gain as a vegan rather than what you lose. There is absolutely no reason why this lifestyle choice should mean you compromise on your tastebuds or your health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread and tomatoes…its the simple things

2017-01-14 12.24.19.jpgIts the simplest things in life right.

I recently bought an amazing vegan cookbook by Smith and Daughters which has been something of an affirming life force for me. Everything I’ve cooked from it thus far has been stunning. Their recipes are PACKED with flavour and I love love love big flavours.

One of the recipes is a pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) which is sooooo good I had to share my version of it. Its simplicity is its brilliance. Its an amazing take on a Spanish classic which both my husband and I have completely fallen in love with (I think i’ve made it 5 times now and he’s also made it for his family too).

I wanted to share it here and just put it out there…its pure vegan joy to eat this and its one of those things that you can cook for others and they won’t care that there is no dairy or meat in it because its so bloody tasty.

Here goes:

  • 5 tomatoes (grated including the skins)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or olive)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Generous handful of finely chopped parsley or Basil (both work brilliantly)
  • pinch himalayan pink salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • teaspoon caster sugar (fine)
  • 1 crushed / minced garlic clove

fb_img_1485928889054All you have to do is put all the ingredients together into a bowl…and stir away until they are combined.

Leave for a bit to the side to let all the flavours marinate and then serve however you fancy it…on simple griddled bread is my fave so far but its also sensational on baked sweet potato.

Please try this. Its absolutely amazing and one of the simplest things I have ever served up. Tomato JOY.

Pulled ‘Pork’ Phenomenon

Sat night I was in a quandary….I wanted to eat something different, try something new, delight my tastebuds…but I didn’t know what to cook. And then, I remembered seeing a lot of posts across FB and other places talking about this vegan pulled ‘pork’.

I’d looked at it a couple of times and couldn’t figure out whether it grossed me out, whether it was just too weird for me, or whether I really fancied it….

I’d seen jackfruits in Thailand and Malaysia many years ago as a Jackfruit and they were ugly. Ugly and massive. And in my head, they were acquainted closely with the raucous smelling durian fruit and therefore about as appealing.

But feeds kept on popping up about how jackfruit was a winner…and so I thought, what the hell, nothing to lose and if I hate it…I won’t eat it again.

A couple of things to be clear about though; I have no idea if this tastes anything like pork and quite frankly I’d prefer it didn’t, I have no idea how it compares in terms of mouth ‘feel’ as I haven’t eaten pork since I was 14 and I can only assume that pulled ‘pork’ is the gimmicky way of trying to make people curious about it as really, its not pork and shouldn’t be compared to it. It should stand on its own as a glorious and delicious plant based option; healthier than pork, better for the environment than pork and way better for the pigs than pork…

I loosely followed this recipe on the Minimalist Baker but have included it here as I basically used my own interpretation of it with a few twists.

2016-09-10-16-35-59So here is where I started, two tins of young green jackfruit in brine. I washed them, rinsed them, and left them standing in fresh water for few hours as the recipe was quite specific that they shouldn’t be in brine (which mine were) as the recipe is too salty.

They looked weird – like a combo of pineapple and silken tofu. But, not letting prejudices get in the way I continued, ignoring that my stomach really wasn’t convinced at this stage.

First up, whilst these were soaking, I made my own BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce is really the key flavour component to this recipes as the jackfruit seems to absorb whatever flavour you throw at it.

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Jac’s Special BBQ Sauce:

  1. Blend the following ingredients :4 ripe tomatoes (chopped up fairly loosely – no need to be picky), teaspoon liquid smoke, teaspoon paprika, teaspoon cumin, tablespoon sriracha sauce, pinch chilli powder, half teaspoon himalayan pink (or table) salt, cracked black pepper, pinch white pepper, 7 dates, 1 peeled garlic clove, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons tamari, 1 tablespoon tomato puree and half cup water.
  2. Taste – add more of anything you want. If you want it spicer…more chill…etc etc
  3. Its not a dark BBQ sauce – more of a spicy smoky tomato influenced BBQ sauce!
  4. Finally, add 1 tablespoon tapioca or potato starch (or cornflour) as the thickener to it. Blend again and then remove and place in a saucepan.
  5. Simmer on a low heat for about 20-30 minutes so that the starch activates and the sauce thickens.
  6. Put into jar and leave to cool with the lid off until ready to use.

So – once the BBQ sauce was created and I was happy with the flavours…I moved onto the crazy fruit.

First up, make the BBQ seasoning, which is also used in the recipe along with the sauce. The BBQ seasoning is all the Minimalist Baker’s and not mine…

  • 1/4 cup BBQ seasoning (2 Tbsp brown sugar + 1 tsp paprika + 1 tsp garlic powder + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp pepper + 1/2 tsp chili powder)

2016-09-10-16-37-35Create this and toss it over your now drained jackfruit. It should coat it thoroughly until it resembles something like this image. Still looks a bit weird huh?

Then, in a frying pan, put some oil (I used peanut) to heat and then toss in the coated jackfruit to cook for about 5 minutes to give it some colour and to start breaking it down.

After 5 minutes, add in the BBQ sauce (3/4 cup of it) to the fruit and stir it through. Add a little water too – maybe 1/4 cup – as it will simmer down and reduce. Keep this going on a low heat for about 20 -30 minutes. You’ll notice, about 15 mins in, that it starts to do this….

2016-09-10-18-48-53

It starts to break down and become stringy, for want of a better word. It looks a little like those amazing little stringy mushrooms you can buy. And it keeps going and keeps going. You can use a fork and push it and it will break down into these strings…basically until the whole dish is like this and the fruit has disintegrated into this stringy amazing mess. That’s when you know its done…which is also handy when you have never cooked it before.

I admit, curious as I was, I was still a little unsure at this point. Would this strange fruit live up to the internet’s lauding of it…I wasn’t convinced.

To accompany it I made a simple avocado, sweetcorn, tomato salsa (with coriander, spring onion, celery and garlic) and I also served it on top of mini pita breads. Here’s one without the topping on it so you can see clearly how it finished up.

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And the verdict? Amazing. Really really really tasty. All of my expectations were smashed and it was really fantastic. I had it the night after with an asian coleslaw and coconut chips and I am having it tonight with a stirfry. It’s really versatile, super low in fat, high in iron, easy to prepare and yum. Really yum.

I am so pleased I ignored all my reservations and just went for it, something that’s so true in life generally. Often things are better than you expect, and this was exactly one of those moments.

Here’s to the jackfruit. Long may it reign.

Oooey Gooey Melty Love

Life is good.

Since taking the advice of the Vegan Cheese Lovers group on Facebook and purchasing the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook my relationship with vegan cheese has changed beyond recognition.

After spending months as a new vegan lamenting the absence of cheese in my life and buying terrible plastic ‘wannabees’ in the supermarket, after spending months trialling and trying to make my own cheeses based off recipes I had found on Google (and failing miserably), I now feel like I have achieved fully fledged bonafide vegan cheese-maker status. Its a pretty amazing feeling.

2016-08-10 06.35.43.jpgI’ve made about 6 recipes from the book and each one has been amazing. Amazing in different ways – some have kicked ass with their flavours being so close to dairy cheese they caused a happy dance in the kitchen, whilst others have just been divine in their own right.

The latest experiment from the book was the brie (recipe to follow). I have to confess its not my fave of all the flavours BUT what it does have going for it is that it melts. Its ooey and gooey and actually melts like dairy cheese under the grill and even browns off a little. I had it for brekky yesterday with tomatoes and popped it under the grill and I was grinning from ear to ear.

The man who wrote this book is quite possibly someone I could begin to hero worship.

So…to the recipe and to the cheese. I know that’s what you really want….

Seriously – if you are into this sort of thing and you fancy having a go…I recommend you buy this book. Its a ninja game-changer. I’ll never buy vegan cheese again unless my back’s against the wall.

Ingredients:

  • 2tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup refined (or normal…refined just has less coconut flavour) coconut oil
  • 1.33 cups almond / soy (I use my homemade nut milk)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste
  • 1.25 teaspoons kappa carrageenan
  • 1 tsp himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil

2016-08-10 06.35.21.jpgThe recipe is in the book – re the process – it doesn’t feel right to share it for the world when this man has spent this amazing amount of time creating these recipes. The only thing I would change – and will next time I make it – is the truffle oil. It was too strong for me and overpowered the cheese entirely. I love truffle flavour but I found it too much in this cheese. I would have reduced the truffle slightly (by half probably) and added in 1/4 teaspoon onion powder to balance it I think. That’s what I will do next time.

What a wonderful world we live in – where we can eat something so alike to dairy cheeses without any of the pain, suffering, forced separation or pollution. If only it were this way around and that non-dairy cheeses were the norm and dairy was the minority. I dream of the day. As would the cows and the calves if they knew, I imagine.

Happy cheese making everyone!

 

 

Sugar and spice and all things nice…

Once upon a time I felt overwhelmed and a little intimidated making desserts or cakes. I think it’s because, generally, I have more of a savoury than a sweet tooth. I feel more at ease with savoury ingredients and more comfortable with their blends and with how they behave.

Lately, I’ve been cooking a few different desserts; as winter approaches my husband and I have definitely re-discovered a sweet tooth and the love of a sweet treat with a cuppa.

I have – quite by chance – stumbled upon three random recipes all of which have been absolutely sensational. All of which have been easy to cook and all of which have turned out to be delicious without any real skill on my part. In short – they are my perfect sweet treats because I can make them without any real stress about whether or not they are going to turn out like I’d hoped. I feel satisfied, now that I have these three in my repertoire – that I have an option for a dessert, an option for parties / snacks and an option for a good cake that I can roll-out if ever needs be.

2016-06-04 18.25.14First up – let’s start with the dessert for dinner parties / friends or just happy filled bellies. This is a vanilla, lemon flan.

It was supposed to be a cheesecake but I cooked it for too long. And the result was amazing. If you like the texture of a firm custard flan you’ll love this. If not so much – just cook it for a little less time than in the recipe! I cooked it for about ten minutes longer than in the link which might also have made it more of a flan than a cheesecake.

The recipe was from this wordpress site (Click here) but if you look you’ll see the results are quite different. I played with the recipe a little and put my own spin on it (mainly because when I cooked it I didn’t fancy the berry flavour).

What did I do differently?

The base:

  1. I blended up my own version which included: Half cup organic muesli, half packet ginger biscuits, Cup macadamias, half cup almond flakes, 5 dates, tablespoon maple syrup and 2 tablespoons almond nut butter. Blend all together and adjust to taste.

The filling:

  1. I forgot to buy two tubs of tofutti but did have 500gm or medium firm tofu in the fridge. So i replaced the recipes suggestion of 2 tubs cream cheese and 300 (ish) grams of tofu with 1 tub tofutti and 500gm medium firm tofu (thus the slightly firmer texture I believe).
  2. I used slightly more sugar than in the recipe and put in 1.5 cups
  3. I added in a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste on top of the essence
  4. I used cashew nut milk as my nut milk
  5. I also added half cup psyllium husk powder to the recipe to assist with the setting as I am always dubious about whether it will set! (my own personal achilles heel is things never setting like they are supposed to)

The topping:

  1. Instead of the topping in the recipe I used this amazing soyatoo whipping cream and whipped a whole carton with about half cup icing sugar, vanilla bean paste and lemon juice (to taste). It was sensational.

Thank you mungbeans for that amazing recipe! If you follow all the steps in the recipe you will definitely enjoy the fantastic flavours!

cake12-1200x750.jpgNext up – quite simply the most amazing vegan pistachio cake. This was soooooo good my husband and I baked one on the saturday, devoured it, and made another one the next day. Its insane. Kudos to this recipe. The only thing I changed was that I also added about a cup of whole pistachios into the cake mixture as I like the extra texture and flavour that they added. Recipe here.  This is the photo from the recipe page and – amazingly – it turned out to look exactly like this. How often does that happen? Not that often in my kitchen.

Finally – we come to another new fave – the good for snacks / great for easy bake super tasty vegan chocolate ginger recipe which basically works just as well as a cake OR as2016-05-29 14.02.52

brownies.You can spin it either way depending on the tin you use or the way you slice it.

The recipe – again – is super easy and quick. It takes me about ten minutes to prep this and get it in the oven.

Chocolate Ginger Cake / Brownie

  • 180g plain flour
  • 35g Cacao (or cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1/4 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
  • 225g coconut sugar
  • 112ml coconut oil
  • 225ml water
  • 2tsp vanilla extra
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • Generous handful chopped crystallised ginger
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For the topping:

  • Finely crumbled gingerbread biscuits (4-5)
  • Handful icing sugar to sprinkle

Its super easy….

  1. Pre heat the oven to 170c (using a fan oven) and grease your baking tin of choice. Line it with non stick baking paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, cacao, bicarb, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine and make a well in the middle.
  3. Separately blend (I used an immersion blender / hand stick) the oil, water and both vanillas.
  4. Add the ginger to the dry mix.
  5. Add the wet mix into the dry mix and stir gently until combined.
  6. Then – and you’ll need to be quick about this as there will be a reaction – add the vinegar into the mix and gently combine it. It will start to sort of fix and change colour.
  7. Once combined pour into your tin and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. Turn out once cooled and place on a rack to completely cool.
  9. Then sprinkle over the biscuits and icing sugar.
  10. Devour when still a little warm with a cuppa. MMMMMMmmmmm.

This is sooooooo good.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoyed making (and eating them!!!!) They were so yummy and I actually can’t wait to have a chance to cook them for someone other than myself or my husband! We might need to share these calories around a little.

Love and kilojoules ++++

What do vegans eat?

After the question about where I get my protein and the question about whether I miss bacon…this is the next biggest question I get from the curious is, ‘what do you eat?’ Usually followed with, ‘it must be really hard to figure out what to cook. You must have to really think about it.’

It always interests me this question. I think its, of all the questions about my diet, the one I like the most. Because it has healthy connotations and is devoid of judgement (unlike those about missing bacon whether I am lacking in iron and protein).

I can genuinely understand people’s bemusement and concern about what they would feed a vegan. I have seen the panic/fear in people’s eyes about the thought of trying to cook for me (to which I usually suggest a simple, easy stir-fry).

Its easier when you have already transitioned from vegetarian to vegan because you’ve already got used to thinking about substituting, different flavours, different ingredients and work-arounds. Plus, being vegetarian in now socially accepted and much easier to cater for as a meat-eater because you just chuck in some cheese or a fake sausage and you are good.

However, catering for a vegan requires a whole new ninja level train of thought – take out the butter, the eggs, the milk, the cream, the cheese, the honey, the ice cream, the chocolate…and I can understand why most people would freak out to varying degrees about the thought of cooking for me.

So – I thought I’d spend some time thinking about answering that question, what is it that I eat…

This blog is a collection of some of my fave meals over the last week; breakfast, lunch and dinner (recipes on request should you be remotely interested in them) in an attempt to demonstrate the variety of food that I eat and how easy it is to cook for and eat as a vegan.

Let’s start with the brekky options...these were my three fave breakfasts in the last week. They were packed with flavour and colourful. I am not really a marmite on toast or cereal kind of ‘cat’ unless I have no choice (and most people in my life know that I will pretty much eat anything for breakfast…so you might find these a little odd).

What about lunch? What did I have for  lunch this week that I really enjoyed? Some highlights included the below vegan quiche and especially my take on San Choi Bau.

Finally…dinner. Some delish meals in the last week which were fairly easy to cook and with a great variety of flavours.

And finally, an almond tart I made for myself for my birthday! My hubby wasn’t keen but he doesn’t like almond essence – but I really enjoyed it. It took about 10 mins to prep and then 50 in the oven…easy easy easy.

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All of these meals were packed with flavour. Easy to prepare and cook and delish to eat.

I hope that this has given you some inspiration whether its as a new vegan, as a
meat-eater trying to figure out what the hell to cook for a vegan or as someone who is thinking about making the leap to being vegan.

Its not bland, its not boring, its not colourless or lacking in flavour. In fact – I think its some of the best damn food I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s to our tastebuds.

Vegan Bacon, yep you heard me right

Ok so let’s start by saying…(for all the meat-eaters who will think this is ridic) that its not really like bacon except its cut into long strips and that it has a smoky taste.

However, let’s also qualify (for all the vegos and vegans out there) – that this sh** is delish.

I actually don’t miss bacon. I’ve never missed bacon. I will never miss bacon. Since the day I became a vegetarian in 1992 I haven’t given bacon a second thought and I’ve never understand the lamentation over missing it. I don’t even think it smells nice when its being cooked. So…its not like I’ve been pining for bacon for 24 years and trying to figure out how to replicate it. Quite the opposite.

2016-04-11 18.03.11.jpgHowever, I spied this recipe the other day on someone’s blog and I thought…hmm, that sounds tasty, I have some tempeh in the fridge, let’s give it a whirl.

So I tried it. It was really really easy. Obviously waaaaaay better for you than actual bacon (and clearly, way better for the pig who doesn’t have to die for the benefit of someone’s tastebuds).

I totally recommend you try this at home. I thought this would last me for days as I made 21 slices of it out of my 1.5 blocks of tempeh…however it was so tasty it only lasted me for 3 days as I basically had 3 slices of it for every meal (I couldn’t leave it alone).

2016-04-11 18.03.27.jpgSo here is the recipe and the process:

  • Tempeh (300 g) – I use the nutrisoy brand which I love
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the marinade
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying the bacon
  • 1.5 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp red hot sauce
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke flavouring
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
PROCESS:
  1. Slice the tempeh as thin as you can without it falling apart.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the salt) in a bowl. Soak the tempeh slices in the marinade for 15 minutes. If there is not enough mixture to cover make up some extra and pour over. You really want them to soak it all up.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, add the tempeh and cook for 3-4 minutes each side over high heat until both sides are browned and crisp. This took me longer than expected. Persevere with it as otherwise it will be soggy and not quite as amazing as you want it to be.
  4. Lay cooked tempeh on paper towel to cool. Add salt to taste.

I had this on toast with avo for brekky, I had it chopped up in a salad for lunch, I had it with roasted potatoes and steamed veg…it literally went with everything!

My fave had to be as part of a fresh and delish buddha bowl that I served up with my lovely friend Elsie as we sat and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ our way through it!

2016-04-11 18.32.33.jpgSuper satisfying. In summary, get some tempeh and get this stuff cooking.

Your tastebuds will absolutely thank you for it. 

Once again, thanks to the simple vegan blog for this fantastic recipe and share.