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.

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Winter is Coming…

As surely as the Starks know that winter is coming, I know that one of my favourite cooking basics is back on the menu as the temperatures start to drop; soup.

I genuinely love cooking soup. And I’ve certainly learned a lot since I first stuck a bunch of boiled veg in a bowl of hot stock at uni and wondered why it didn’t taste that great. That watery uninspiring start has thankfully long been a distant memory. I learned the secret of many a good soup over the years; roast your veggies first for deeper flavour, salt and pepper them at the end so you can really closely manage it, and always use your spices and herbs to bring them to life and give them an extra lift.

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Two of my all-time faves to cook are pumpkin and also cauliflower.

Today, as the light began to fade, I thought to myself…its a soup kind of evening. What better to compliment the home-baked pull apart bread I whipped up this morning. An amazing garlic tear and share bread topped with a homemade parsley pesto. Yum!

Something I’ve had to adapt to is making a yummy creamy vegan soup. What to use instead of butter? What about cream? I wanted to make something that both myself and my non-vegan hubby would both love.

And thankfully, I managed it.

I use soy cream (provamel single soy cream) and organic soy milk in my creamy soups. I also used some tofutti in this one for creaminess too. Finally – I am a massive fan of the gentle chef and always make my own butter from the non-dairy evolution cookbook (a book which pretty much revolutionised my life). So – if you are keen for some creamy warming yummy wintery goodness in your belly….try this cauliflower soup. You won’t regret it!

The Starks Wintery Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 head cauliflower sliced
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 chopped medium sized potatoes (par-boiled and peeled)
  • 1 brown onion chopped finely
  • 3 sticks celery chopped
  • 5-6 swiss brown mushrooms
  • 3 spring onions chopped finely
  • 1 cup organic soy (or other preferred milk)
  • Half cup provamel soy cream (or other preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons tofutti cream cheese
  • Tablespoon better butter (or any non-dairy butter)
  • Tablespoon peanut oil
  • Pinch white pepper
  • Teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley and fresh chives to serve

First of all, chop and prep all your veggies. Pop a saucepan on to boil and par-boil your potatoes. Meanwhile, fry up your garlic, onion, spring onions, celery and mushrooms in the peanut oil. Do not brown. The key to this soup is that we are trying to keep it as white as possible for the finished presentation.

IMG_0347.jpgThen, add in the butter and cauliflower and continue to gently fry for about 10 minutes and add the potatoes when they are almost cooked (you don’t want them falling apart). As soon as the potatoes are added – also add the stock. Turn the temperature down (so it doesn’t boil) and let everything simmer for about another 15 minutes. At this point add the cream, nutritional yeast, mustard, white pepper and milk. Stir to combine and then use a stick blender to combine until its really smooth. Then add the tofutti for extra creaminess. Blend again. At this point – add more cream or milk to taste and start to slowly add salt and pepper as meets your tastebuds! The overwhelming flavour should be one of cauliflower. Pop it back on the hob on the lowest heat for about another ten minutes to let all the flavours infuse and then serve and ENJOY.

We had it straight out of the pan and served with the home-baked bread. It was insane. I can’t wait to have it again tomorrow for lunch. Made with love in my kitchen.

Happy souping! 

 

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.

Celebrating two years a vegan with…hummus

So…just quietly, I am celebrating two years of my vegan journey. I can’t believe its been two years…seriously, where have the last two years gone?

And what better way to celebrate it, from a self-confessed, and obsessed, hummus eater, than with, well, hummus! Wine is so passe! Ha.

Whilst scrolling through Pinterest for food inspiration the other evening, I stumbled upon what might well be the most brilliant of all combinations….hummus with peanut butter. My curiousity was immediately piqued and I straightaway decided that a supermarket run was in order.

The recipe I talk of is not mine, I can’t claim any ownership for it, but I do want to share the love as its simply amazing. I have eaten FAR too much of it the last few days as it makes an amazing accompaniment to a buddha bowel. Tops it off perfectly.

The recipe is from a food blogger called fooduzzi and its genius. Its a thai, sriracha, peanut butter based hummus. http://www.fooduzzi.com/2016/03/thai-peanut-hummus/

WOW. Is all I can say. I followed the recipe to the exact quantities thinking, this might be odd or this might be amazing, as I did it. And it was the latter. Who would have thought that peanut butter could be a hummus ingredient…the question now is, can I use it every time I make hummus? Not sure my thighs would agree it was a good idea but my tastebuds definitely do.

20170105_162642.jpgIt took less than 5 minutes to make and went from blender to mouth in under that…

Here’s my delicious dinner buddha bowl complete with it. Yummy roasted beetroot and sweet potato, with hummus, peanuts, spring onion, raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes and Avo.

Marvellous.

Happy Thursday all.

 

 

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! 

 

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!