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.

Why am I still buying pesto?

I made my own pesto the other night and it made me wonder, why am I ever buying pesto? It took me about 5 minutes in total, was damn tasty, and I knew exactly what was in it. Are we so far removed from what we eat that we always take the easy way out? Sometimes it feels like that. I include myself in this observation.

Many years ago I read an amazing book called, ‘What’s not on the label?’ which my brother recommended to me and it was one of those aha moments when you realise there is a lot of sh** in the processed stuff we eat. Upon completing the book I literally stopped eating as much processed food as possible. I no longer buy any pre made soups, jams, sauces, dinners, and (as much as possible) buy my fruit and veg from local suppliers. Why? Because of the way food is preserved, stored, modified, packaged and transferred. It was eye-opening and terrifying. Everything we think we know, or the assumptions that we made…we should question when it comes to mass processed food production. 

3280f4f84fa0ffb037d473a5524a1387The book started with an amazing observation from the author of going into a supermarket and standing in the fresh fruit and veg section and wondering why none of the fruit and veg smelled. Why couldn’t she, standing in the middle of it all, smell anything? It’s worth pondering and that’s exactly what the book does.

So, despite everything I’ve learned I still on occasion buy pastes for convenience (curry and pesto) as they are so easy and convenient. I also buy pickles as I haven’t yet figured out how to make a good pickle. However, upon seeing an amazing Donna Hay recipe for a macadamia pesto which seemed very vegan modifiable I thought I’d give it a try. And my, it was easy, cheap and really tasty.

Perhaps its time to cut to the chase and stop buying them too. I think its important in these times to be more and  more connected to what we eat and to resist what’s easy as what’s easy is often filled with something that wasn’t easier down the chain…for the orangutans who’s habitat is being destroyed for palm oil, or the farm animals killed for gelatine by products and the rest, or the fish who have not been sustainably sourced, or the local water source for many regional people poisoned by industry...you know how it goes. Easy for us isn’t actually the best choice. In fact I think the opposite might be true.

So in the spirit of not choosing the easy way – here’s my homemade pesto which I invite you to try and to love as much as I do!

Macadamia Rocket Pesto

  • 40gm roasted macadamias
  • handful fresh rocket
  • half bunch fresh basil (or more you can alter to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • handful (Generous) of any firm vegan cheese (I used one I’d made at home from the Gentle Chef but I think any firm tangy vegan cheese will do. Don’t use a mild one)
  • half garlic clove
  • black pepper and salt – pinch

BC0875DF-C70A-41CB-8F05-A6E9B3056A19.JPGSo the only work you have to do here is roast the macas. Once done – you simply put it all in a blender and away you go. This did me 4 serves. Delightful. That’s it. Tastebuds happy.

I am far from perfect and the first to point the finger (at myself) but here’s to awareness and to not taking the easy route. 

 

For the Love of Paprika

I haven’t posted for ages…life has rather got in the way. Work has been bonkers, my amazing parents have been visiting…and there hasn’t been as much room for experimentation. So, whilst I had the house to myself for 6 days, I decided to try my hand at a new cheese.

Flicking through my fave cookbook (the non-dairy evolution cookbook) my eyes alighted on a gorgeous bright red cheese called Muenster. Looking through the ingredients I realised it was the paprika that gave this cheese its ‘hit’.

2016-11-16 20.14.17.jpgNote – to love this recipe you gotta love paprika. Easy for me as I really do. Its something about the sweet smokiness of it that I love.

So…I gave the Muenster a whirl. Pretty straightforward to make as it turns out.

This pic is it in all its ooey gooey gorgeousness before it sets. I realised as making it that this recipe, perhaps sans paprika, would make an amazing lasagne topping, dipping cheese (if you could keep it hot) as it was so very cheesy and mimicking of cheddar. Quite frankly I could have stood there and eaten it straight from the pan just cooked and smiled like a crazy person as the flavours lit up in my mouth.

Anyway…to the recipe….

So…its pretty straightforward. I won’t share the technique…for that you have to purchase the book itself, but here are the ingredients so you can get them in your pantry.

  • 1.33 cup refined organic coconut oil
  • 1.33 cup organic almond milk (I use Inside Out Almond Milk’s brand)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablesp Nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablesp kappa Carrageenan
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar powder (my own addition)
  • pinch pink salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder

file-18-11-16-6-26-26-amIt turned out so well. I was really delighted with it. Its delicious, slice-able, melt-able and would be great in a sarnie, on toast, in a salad or just in a massive slab just because.

Here’s the link to the book: https://thegentlechef.com/gentle-chef-cookbooks/non-dairy-evolution-cookbook/

Next up – there is a ‘make your own butter’ recipe in there. I am intrigued and going to give that a go. I’ll report back 😉

Until then, its FRIDAY! 

 

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.

2016-09-10-16-40-14

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.

2016-09-10-18-54-11

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.

Vegan Cheese is hard and I mean HARD to make

I haven’t written this blog for ages…mainly because FOR AGES (since April) I have been trying to successfully make a vegan cheese that I was proud of and happy enough with to blog about.

I blithely and naively began to try and make my own vegan cheeses 1 year into my vegan journey. I thought to myself, how hard can this be. Hard, as it turns out. I completely underestimated the nuances and subtleties of making vegan cheese.

Its hard on a number of levels. Its hard to get to set right, to get the right consistency, to get to melt, to taste good, to balance the flavours and so on. But, mainly, I have found it really hard to get it to set as I wanted it to.

By hard, I mean that I am now on about my tenth vegan cheese recipe and ONLY NOW have I managed to create two cheeses which I love and am happy with.

Practice really does make perfect. The girl guides were right. I didn’t even know I was this patient. But it turns out I really want to make my own cheese and I really want it to be amazing.

After two months of trying, and mainly failing, I reached out to a few vegan cheese lovers groups on Facebook. I had created delicious oozy cheeses, but they were all soft spreadable cheeses which is great if that’s what you are trying to create, I, however was not. I was trying to make a hard set cheese which I could slice.

What am I doing wrong…? I cried in desperation!

I had been using Miyokos Vegan artisan cheese book and things just weren’t working. I had tried ones I googled and ones on Pinterest all of which promised delightful firm looking cheeses. I was starting to feel like I was in the middle of a big April fools joke that no-one was letting me in on. 

So, imagine my relief when the vegan cheese lovers group (my saviours) told me NO…and informed me I was using the wrong book. The book to use if you want to make vegan cheese is The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook.

And how right they were. This blog is dedicated to them in thanks.

I have, since ordering it, made three cheeses from this book. Two of them were phenomenal. The third is just finished and in the fridge, so we’ll see how that turns out.

I am going to share one of them with you today because I was astounded by how yummy it was. I figured, it anyone out there was also going through the same level of experimentation and failure as I was, this post might bring you hope!

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This is the mozzarella di Tuscano from aforementioned amazing book. I claim no rights whatsoever to this brilliant recipe. Its all the work of the Gentle Chef and I am most grateful for his knowledge. The ingredients are simple:

  1. Coconut oil
  2. Lactic acid powder (which I ordered online as I couldn’t find in any shops)
  3. Soymilk (homemade – recipe is also in the book)
  4. Tapioca flour
  5. Kappa Carrageenan (also ordered online)
  6. Sea salt
  7. Garlic
  8. Dried basil
  9. Dried oregano (my addition to the recipe)
  10. Sun dried tomatoes (I didn’t add these as I didn’t have any at home)

2016-07-08 05.57.59It was simple to cook and easy to follow and all the steps are brilliantly laid out.

Also laid out are all the things that can go wrong (the coconut oil separating from the sauce which had happened to me a couple of times prior and which I didn’t know a) how to fix or B) whether that was supposed to happen or not).

I am hopeful for the future of my vegan cheeses and feel like, for the first time, there might be some successes ahead.

If you want to make vegan cheese, my advice is buy this book. Its not expensive to buy and its worth it. 100% worth it.

Happy Cheesy Friday all.

 

 

 

 

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.