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! 

 

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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!

 

 

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.

It’s getting Saucy in my Kitchen

Something I’ve not previously tried my hand at (well not a lot anyway) is marinading. I tend to eat my tofu, tempeh, seitan etc etc as it is, mostly straight from the package.

I am not sure if that’s because I am impatient, unaware or simply because we never really marinated things when I was growing up so it generally doesn’t occur to me.

So – this week – I decided to try my hand at some sauces – new ways of cooking ingredients that I haven’t previously tried. When I started this vegan adventure it was all about what I gained and not what i’d lost – and so (with this in mind) I decided it was high time I challenged myself again and threw myself wholeheartedly into the strange, new and untested.

Here’s what I made:

  • Balsamic tempeh marinade
  • Sweet ricotta tofu paste
  • Jalapeno chipotle Dressing

Not all at the same time and certainly not in the same meal.

All three of them have been a massive hit and have been used copiously this week (in fact I’ve eaten the marinated tempeh for every main meal – quite literally. Its sauce-sational (sorry).

I’ve learned that marinated tempeh / tofu pays huge dividends for the tastebuds and that – now its out there – I won’t be going back. Much as I love tofu in its pure state – this marinade wipes the floor with anything else I have tried thus far.

I’ve also learned that tofu doesn’t need to be a savoury flavour. The sweet ricotta tofu has been amazing on toast with banana for brekky and a welcome replacement to ricotta which I used to use.

Finally – as a former LOVER of chipotle – I am now delighted to have found a sauce thats as creamy as an aioli and just as tasty.

I can’t claim these recipes for my own. I had help with some genius vegan cooks whose recipes I found on Google and added some little twists of my own to shape them to my tastebuds.

If ever you are in doubt – get your sauce on – I feel like a new door to a world of amazing flavours has just opened and I am happy to walk through it.

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Sweet Ricotta Tofu (served on toast with mashed banana and drizzle maple syrup and small handful of pepitas)

  • 100gm firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Pinch himalayan pink salt

So simple – just blend it all up and pop into a tupperware and serve whenever you want – it will keep for about a week happily before it’s time to say goodbye. This one is my own recipe.

Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh

2016-02-21 09.59.07.jpgThis one is courtesy of the amazing Angela Liddon and her ‘Oh She Glows’ Cookbook (which I love). The only difference to the original recipe is my addition of coconut aminos (below)

  • 300gm plain tempeh
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 4 teaspoons coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch himalayan pink salt

Take the tempeh out of the package and pat it dry. Then chop into about 16 bite size pieces. Pop into a glass tupperware container. Then blend all the other ingredients together and 2016-02-21 18.45.37.jpgpour over the tempeh. Pop the lid onto the pot and give it a really hearty shake. Then pop in the fridge for about 6-8 hours and occasionally pick it up and shake it to make sure all covered. Once marinated – turn oven onto about 150C and get out a baking tray. Into that tray add a base of tinfoil / alufoil. Bend over the sides of it to shape a basket that would hold liquid happily. Into this ‘basket’ pour the tempeh and it’s marinade. Cover the basket with a foil lid and pop into the oven and bake for about 20 mins. After this time has passed, remove the lid and bake without it for a further 20 – 30 mins or until most of the sauce has dissipated and you are left with a sort of caramelised mess on the base of the foil and lovely semi sticky tempeh. I served this with a fresh vegetable stir-fry one night and with roasted sesame carrots and cauliflower another. Its really versatile and utterly delicious.

Creamy Chipotle Saucy Goodness

This one was a combo of a recipe that popped up on Facebook on a vegan cooking group page and my own little twist. The original recipe is here.

2016-02-21 09.26.41.jpgI love chipotle sauce on corn cobs but, as it turns out, I will actually eat it on anything. This is super tasty and works on salads, roasted / steamed veg, mashed potato, veggie sausages and so on (the list might actually be limitless – it’s that good).

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (I actually used butter beans as I prefer their texture and flavour and my belly prefers them)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp tahini (I use hulled)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
2  1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1  1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco brand (I actually used slightly more to taste as I wanted to offset the sweetness of the maple)
1/4 cup water, or more to thin as desired
3-5 marinated pickled jalapeños(I use the Sandhurst brand)

Simply blend it all until its a creamy consistency and has the right balance of sweetness and heat…add more jalapeños or tabasco to taste (and if you are feeling brave). Serve generously on everything (!!)

And that’s it folks….a week of sauces and blending. Next up…yummy homemade desserts.

Soya bella -grazie mille

2015-12-31 13.00.14.jpgFor Christmas my wonderful hubby bought me something I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for some time….

A soyabella machine.

Its about the size of an average kettle and works little miracles making soy milk, home made tofu, all nut milks, porridge, soups…you name it.

Thank you so much to my husband for this fantastic gift.

I tried it out last night for the first time…and it was not only fun and intriguing figuring it out but the end result was delish.

I decided to start off with soy milk, as I had the beans soaked and ready to go…

2015-12-31 13.01.11.jpgIn one of my recent blogs I made my own nut milk (almond) and soy milk at home and they were delish. My only comment about them were that, although tasty, they were a little watery and I hadn’t quite figured out that consistency so that they had more of a creaminess about them.

Not so with this new little beauty…

Its amazing. In 15 minutes it made the most delish, creamy, smooth soy milk.

I simply added cane sugar, a pinch of salt and some vanilla essence at the end to get it to the flavour I like.

Its now ready to go in the fridge and I can’t wait to use it with brekky in the morning.

2015-12-31 12.58.58.jpgMain differences I noticed from using this instead of making self from scratch were:

  1. The milk has more of a definite beany flavour. Hard to describe but certainly  not unpleasant. Far from it. It tastes like the product it came from which makes good sense to me.
  2. The end result was creamier, smoother and thicker
  3. It even formed a skin when it was cooling – just like old skool dairy milk (you may think its odd that this excites me – but it does)
  4. It was so so quick. I still soaked the beans overnight beforehand but in 15 minutes it achieved what took me over an hour before.

This was my first foray and I loved it. I can’t wait to try to make my own tofu and my nut milks in here…I have a feeling they will be fabulous. If you are thinking about getting one – this gets a proper thumbs up from me!

Happy nearly new year everyone! #feelingblessed

 

Milky Milky but not actually Milk

I’ve now been vegan for 10 months which seems astounding to me as the time has flown by. Those first few months were a little bit exciting, daunting and intriguing all at the same time. Everything felt new; learning about my nutritional requirements, trying to take it step by step, trying new foods and learning new words. 

Now – ten months in, I feel completely relaxed and confident with my lifestyle and diet. I feel comfortable in my own skin and I feel like part of a wonderful, aware, no bull***t community with shared goals and ideals regardless of the journey or reasons it took for us to get here.  

Ten months in I feel more confident as time passes to try new things. I look back at my first posts and see my confusion about what to put in my tea, how I can replace cheese with something I love as much etc etc. Its interesting to see how your taste buds change and adapt with time. I now drink soy, almond or any old milk in my tea and love them all. They don’t taste weird any more or like they are a replacement for something, they are the something. I don’t even miss cheese – and find my replacements for it flavoursome and delish. I’ve made my own cheese many a time and enjoy it just as much. Daiya and its gooey meltyness has helped along the way of course.

So – this takes me to (in my mind) some next level ninja stuff. Making my own soy and almond milk. This is something that would have freaked me out massively ten months ago. I couldn’t even think about doing something like this as it wouldn’t have seemed do-able. I had enough on my plate figuring out what I was going to eat and how I was making sure my nutritional intake was healthy and sustainable, let alone attempting to make my own milk.

This weekend I took on the ninja stuff and decided it was time.

Who needs cows milk? Not this vegan.

Who needs cows milk? Not this vegan.

Funnily enough – and unexpectedly so – making my own milks was really easy. Far easier, in fact, than making my own cheeses or making some of the yummy desserts I have also tried in the last year. It turns out that the assumption that making vegan alternative milks was a glass barrier of expectation all in my mind. It wasn’t hard at all, quite the opposite, it was reassuringly easy. I could have done this months and months ago.

 

 

I still feel a little yoda for having attempted it to be honest and I am certainly intrigued by this new skill and the possibilities it opens up in terms of my options. Its certainly cheaper than buying shop bought and assumedly more sustainable too (far less waste and packaging created) but what now matters is whether I can equal the taste of the shop bought options that I have come to love.

So – how did I do it. Here goes….

Almond Milk:

  • 2/3 cup almonds (soaked 12-14 hours)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1-2 pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar

Drain the soaked almonds and rinse thoroughly, then blend all ingredients on high in a blender for 1-2 minutes until well combined.

Strain through a fine cheesecloth/muslin to produce a smooth milk that doesn’t contain any pieces. Keeps in a sealed jar or bottle for 2-3 days.

…and that’s literally it. Its that simple and the flavour is lovely. Truly lovely. Light and nutty and smooth. I can’t wait to have it with my oats for breakfast tomorrow!

Soy Milk

This one was a little trickier. Only a little but it did take more effort and more attention than the almond milk. The process starts the same – you soak the organic yellow soybeans in water for about 12 hours and then wash and drain them.

The almond and soy side by side.

The almond and soy side by side.

It then gets a little trickier from there as you have to remove their skins. Their what I thought….how on earth do you achieve this…I had no interest in individually skinning 100’s of small soybeans. So…instead I opting for a process of exerting gentle pressure on a handful of them at a time and rolling them inbetween my fingers and palms. This released the skins from the beans and I then picked through the beans and removed them as I found them. I guess this whole process took me about 20 minutes of repeating the activity until no more skins seemed apparent.

After that point I blitzed them in the blender with the water (the recipe is to follow) before bringing to boil for about 5 minutes. I then added vanilla, agave and a little caster sugar (as I like my soy with a little sweetness) and carried on simmering it for about 30 mins skimming off the froth and any skin that started to form on top. I tasted as I went adding more vanilla as I went along to taste.

The lovely recipe I borrowed was from this blog: http://simpleveganblog.com/homemade-soy-milk/

Once cooled I took it off the hob and let it cool completely before popping it in a bottle for my enjoyment! I did put some in a coffee and enjoyed it whilst hot….lovely.

…And thats it – that’s how easy it is to make your own milk. I feel full jedi vegan now that I have attempted and semi mastered this. I feel hopeful that I will continue to make my own milks and through trial and error will find the blend that I love. I think I might try macadamia milk next. Yum.