Taking the Taste for Granted – Chilli Jam Goodness

Where did it all begin?

Funnily enough, it began with a glut of fresh chilli growing on my balcony. My much loved (not enough watered) chilli plant has been going strong for over 5 years now. Every year I think it’s died and every year it resurrects itself. And it seems to be going from strength to strength. 2016 was definitely its year. We had chilli galore and the entire jam idea began from a simple conversation with my husband that went along the lines of… ‘What on earth are we going to do with all this chill?’ 

Much to his surprise, having never made a relish or a jam in my life prior to 6 months ago, I announced that I was going to make a chilli jam. I think my words went along the lines of, ‘how hard can it be?’

What’s easy about jam, I have discovered, is making it. Its not arduous and its not complex. But what’s hard about jam, which I have learned since the heady days of my first successes, is that its hard to make it consistently well with a depth of flavour and to achieve that same depth batch after batch.

I am simply a women who loves to cook, who loves bold flavour and who loves knowing exactly what’s in her food. That’s all I ask for in a meal – for my taste buds to be delighted and for my body to benefit.

I firmly believe that we are what we eat and my jams are an extension of that belief. They have nothing in them that you can’t pronounce. Nothing in them that’s processed. They are simple and made with love in my kitchen.

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And so the jam making began in earnest. Chilli came first because, for no other reason, that’s what I had in season on my balcony. And I confess I have gone from being someone who hardly ate any chilli jam, to someone who can’t get enough of it. On everything. I hope that’s what you find too when you try it.

It works with meat, cheese, roasted veg, salads, on toast, with avocado and apparently (a genius idea from Tim) with an egg and bacon slider (smiles). 

Welcome to my jCF386171-2ADA-4E59-9E50-E9B663600D33ams and welcome to my kitchen. I hope you enjoy them as much as I love making them.

Next up will be some experimentation with a rosemary / mint jelly and perhaps a ‘winter is coming’ Game of Thrones inspired shiraz jam.

I am super excited to be working with Tim and Bluesalt Catering and look forward to being part of their menus.

Happy Jamming everyone. Don’t forget to indulge and to feel free to take them for Granted.

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.

Its getting hot in here…the story of my sweet chilli jam.

This week I had one of life’s epiphanies. It was about jam. Chilli jam, to be specific.

2017-01-17 19.31.10.jpgThe epiphany..? Its easy to make. I’ve been spending money for years on gorgeous, delicious, organic sweet chilli jams from delis all over the country and yet it had never occurred to me to try to make my own. I assumed it involved a lot of elbow grease, took hours and hours and was fairly complex. All stories I had made up in my own head with no grounding in anything whatsoever.

Historically, I don’t have a great relationship with jams. Since my sister and I worked on a fruit picking farm as teenagers hoping to make our millions, I have barely touched the stuff to be honest. It was one of those ‘now that I know what’s in it I don’t want to eat it any more’ moments. I won’t go into detail for any jam lovers out there. I’d hate to spoil your breakfast 😉

Suffice to say, I really have no interest in jam, apart from the odd occasional green or red chilli jam which for some reason my brain excuses (isn’t the brain amazing). I think its because I was picking sweet fruit for jam and for some reason my brain has decided that chilli probably doesn’t share the same fate as fruits in the jam picking process, who knows. Anyway, the point is…I LIKE CHILLI JAM.

My husband and I have this amazingly stoic chilli plant on our balcony which every year threatens to cark it and somehow, every year, makes it through. Its into its 5th year now and I think this year was the most bumper of any years in terms of yield. We have chilli galore and I commented to him, ‘what on earth are we going to do with all of this chilli?’ ….and there was the epiphany. Somewhere in my brain a little light went on and I thought…ok…dammit…I’ll try to make my own.

So on Weds, as a complete jam making virgin, I entered into the unchartered world of making your own jams with no idea whatsoever what I was doing or whether it would taste good / set or whether I was about to waste a beautiful yield of fresh, organic, home grown chilli on a whim. 

How did I begin? I simply googled sweet chilli jam and followed the first recipe I found which was lucky as I had all the ingredients in the cupboard. It’s this one:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/8257/sweet-chilli-jam

The ingredients were pretty simple:

  • 8 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 10 red chilli roughly chopped
  • finger-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic clove, peeled
  • 400g can cherry tomatoes
  • 750g golden caster sugar
  • 250ml red wine vinegar

I added a few of my own along the way (up to you if you want to follow suite):

  1. 2 tablespoons Apple sauce
  2. 2 tablespoons agar agar powder (as I wasn’t convinced it would set having never tried it before)
  3. 5 tomatoes with skins at blending stage
  4. Another 100g caster sugar as when tasting close to the end it was a tad too spicy still for me

2017-01-17-18-10-47The method was also bonkers simple. Literally there are no cooking skills involved in this recipe except chopping, blending and stirring. If you can do that…you can make your own jam.

METHOD:

  1. Tip the peppers, chillies (with seeds), ginger and garlic into a food processor, then whizz until very finely chopped. Scrape into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar, then bring everything to the boil. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 mins, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once the jam is becoming sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t catch and burn. It should now look like thick, bubbling lava. Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely. Keeps for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard – refrigerate once opened.

The result was sensational.

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It set perfectly and cooled overnight to reveal this magical jam in the morning which tasted amazing. So good in fact I immediately had it for breakfast on toast with avocado (and a massive smile on my face). One recipe made so much that I divided it into 7 jars and shipped it off to my mates. When I think that one jar to buy is about $10 and I made 7 jars for about the same amount…that’s pretty cool.

If I am feeling brave enough I think i’ll try a homemade onion jam next. I mean, how hard can it be right?

Happy jam making all (but maybe don’t get a job fruit picking). Smiles.

 

Pulled ‘Pork’ Phenomenon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jac’s Special BBQ Sauce:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

A Tasty Little Tart

I felt like getting creative over the weekend. I haven’t cooked anything technical in a while and my fingers were itching to try something new. Work has also been pretty full on lately and I simply haven’t had the capacity to will myself to get energetic and creative in the kitchen…so it was nice to feel that urge come back.

I wanted to cook (cook isn’t really the right word) something raw, healthy and restorative. I ended up combining two recipes – one from the Unbakery and one from Thug Kitchen (two brilliant vegan cookbooks if you haven’t tried them).

2016-08-14 16.57.34.jpgI ended up creating a cherry tomato tofu ricotta tart…it’s still going three days later and I’ve pretty much eaten it for every meal since! I even donated a slice to a fellow vegan at work (who I think liked it and wasn’t hopefully just being polite!!!)

What I loved about this recipe is its versatility. I can make the base any time and just fill it with whatever I like. Its also delish, amazing with salad, and great to share.

Cherry Tomato Tofu Ricotta Tart

Base: 

  • 1 cup raw almonds (soaked for at least 6 hours) drained
  • 2.5 cups raw hazelnuts (soaked as above)
  • 1/3 cup ground golden flax seeds (ground into a flour…I used my pestle and mortar)
  • 2 TBsp nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 tbsp himalayan pink salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or refined coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup tap water (or filtered if you happen to have it…I never do)

This is super super simple. Mix all the ingredients in a blender except the olive oil and water. Leave some texture (you don’t want a fine powder) but break down the biggest chunks. It will almost stick together itself at this point even before adding in the oil and water. Then…either blend in water and oil or hand stir it through.

2016-08-14 17.01.44Then, oil the bottom of your tart tin with just a little olive oil and press the mixture into it. Make sure its really tightly pressed together. At this point – I popped the oven onto a low heat (150c on a bake setting) and let it warm up. One it gets to this temp – pop the tart base/s into the oven and let them slowly cook on this temp for about 30 – 45 minutes.

Or you can leave for longer if you want them to be really crispy – I didn’t. I wanted it to be more chewy.

Filling and Topping:

Ricotta:

  • 350g Tofu (firm, any brand)
  • 1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • half teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • half teaspoon himalayan pink salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • teaspoon dried basil

Quite simply – blend all of this together until its a nice thick puree consistency. It should be even and lump free. This is the base of your tart!

Topping:

  • 500gm cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • half bunch basil shredded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch sea salt

2016-08-14 16.57.22Finely slice the tomatoes and then marinate with the other ingredients for at least 30 mins (hopefully until your tart has finished baking if the timing works out). Leave half bunch basil aside for the dressing at the end.

Once the tart has finished baking simply assemble. I’d leave it to cool for about 10-15 minutes and then spread the tofu ricotta evenly across the base before covering with the tomatoes.

Finally – shred and sprinkle the basil over the top and drizzle with a little finish of olive oil and some fresh cracked black pepper.

Absolutely delicious! Super happy with this one. I’ll definitely be re-creating for guests at some point!

 

 

 

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.

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.