I made a pizza base out of cauliflower…

Something caught my eye on the weekend…a blog post from a fantastic writer ‘Chocolate Covered Katie’. I felt like being creative, I haven’t had the time or inclination much of late. She made a pizza base using cauliflower, and as I started to Google I discovered this was a bit of a thing.

IMG_0483Half a cauliflower head was losing the will to live in my fridge and I thought it might be time to resurrect it or resign it to the bin and I REALLY hate food waste so really, in truth, the former was the only option.

A quick glance in the cupboard told me I had all the ingredients so I delved in and, last time, made myself a cauliflower pizza base complete with toppings.

The recipe was simple and promised only 5 ingredients. I thought to myself, this will either be amazing or it will be a complete flop. I’ll either be loving my dinner or trying to make the best of it!

 

Visit here for Katie’s recipe...or my slightly amended version is below:

  • 1/2 medium head of steamed cauliflower (4 cups of small florets)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (I ground raw almonds)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 

The process was simple….

  1. Grind your almonds and set aside.
  2. Mix the water with the flaxseed and stick in the fridge for about 20 minutes so that it becomes all gloopy and egg like – this is what will hold your mixture together – the glue if you will.
  3. Steam your cauliflower and leave to cool (squeezing out any moisture if you can)
  4. Set your oven to about 220 centigrade
  5. Blend your cauliflower to a rice consistency
  6. That’s all your prep work done…..
  7. Now….combine your almonds with your cauliflower in a bowl. Add in the flax mix and stir. Then simply add your garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt and oregano to finish things off. I used a spatula to stir and mix it all through. It forms a loose ball not unlike dough but a little wetter.
  8. I put baking paper on a large chopping board and place the ball onto it. I simply then used the same spatula to push it into a pizza base shape slowly – evening the edges and making sure it was an even thickness throughout (about 1/4 inch).
  9. Once done – I simply popped it into the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the edges were browned and it felt firm to touch in the middle.

In the pic below the right is the pre-cooked and the left is the cooked. I think, in hindsight I might have cooked it for a little longer as although it was firm it could have been a little firmer. The outer edges were perfect and you could pick them up and eat them just like a pizza base but the inside wasn’t as firm and had to be eaten with a fork. It would be amazing if I could actually have flipped it and cooked each side in the oven…that might be an experiment for next time.

Once the base is cooked, simply add your toppings…I went for quite a simple selection…I spread tomato paste and white miso paste as the base. I then topped with chopped tomato, onion and mushroom. Finishing it off was grated Oliana vegan cheese and basil flakes with a grind of salt and pepper.

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I let the edges get quite brown as I like the crunch (and they tasted delish) but you could do it with a little less enthusiasm for brown edges if you like!!

Would I cook it again? Definitely. It was so tasty and my non-vegan hubby also loved it (an unexpected win).

Thanks Katie for your inspiring and simple recipe. That’s the first time I’ve eaten pizza and felt like it was doing me good…

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My Childhood Favourite Oozes and Delights

A friend sent me a food porn recommendation last week – for vegan lasagne. Its worth mentioning that lasagne was my fave dish as a child. Something about it never ceases to delight me – the ooziness of the sauce, the crunch of the lasagne pasta that always crisps up towards the edges, and of course the cheesy bechamel sauce. It was always the meal I’d ask for as a birthday treat and more often than not, the one I’d order at restaurants. So simple. So much joy.

As an adult, however, I don’t cook it very often…the mind boggling number of calories late at night isn’t often my first choice, and, of course, it takes effort. Thought and planning are involved and when I get home from work I usually just want to throw something yummy together without all the prep lasagne involves.

But last week, as I said, a good friend sent me a link on FB to this recipe from Cilantro and Citronella and all week it was bouncing around in my thoughts and teasing my tastebuds. It promised to deliver an easy to cook, delish vegan lasagne and glancing over the recipe it did, indeed, seem pretty simple.

Thursday night beckoned and I got involved, elbow deep, in chopping, prepping and seasoning and I have to say it wasn’t hard at all. The whole process took me about 40 minutes to prep and then another 45 to cook in the oven and it was (and still is) delish. The portions made enough to serve about 8 adults (my husband and I will now be eating this for dayssssss) and it really is tasty, proper tasty.

The ingredients are simple but I confess I did thrown a few of my own into the mix…they are italicised below in case you want to give this one a crack and ignore my additions.

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (for the flour blend stage)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (to fry the veg…my addition instead of olive oil as I like the buttery flavour)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 600 grams (21 oz) button mushrooms, chopped (use the stems too)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 400 grams (14 oz) frozen spinach, thawed according to the package directions and squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened plant milk (they used soy, I used almond)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock
  • ½ cup (75 grams) flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast / I doubled this and used 4 as it wasn’t cheesy enough for me
  • 3 cups (700 ml / about a jar and a half) marinara sauce (I bought a large tin of crushed tomatoes and added fresh basil to it)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (blended into the bechamel sauce mix after the flour and milk have been added…gave it another cheesy kick)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (again added to the bechamel sauce)
  • 1 packet veggie mince fried in with veggies
  • Lasagna sheets

IMG_0470I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe to any vegan lasagne lovers out there. The only tricky bit was the bechamel sauce…which wasn’t even really tricky at all, you just had to keep a close eye on it. And my sauce was a little lumpy so I just used a hand blender to get rid of them and make sure it was silky and smooth. But the taste of the sauce is fantastic and goes so well on the lasagne. It even bubbles and browns and oozes on top…just like a cheese lasagne would…an amazing achievement to behold (and even better to taste).

Even writing this blog is making me think about eating some. Yup. Its that tasty.

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….

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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.

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.