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. 

 

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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.

2016-09-10-18-54-11

And the verdict? Amazing. Really really really tasty. All of my expectations were smashed and it was really fantastic. I had it the night after with an asian coleslaw and coconut chips and I am having it tonight with a stirfry. It’s really versatile, super low in fat, high in iron, easy to prepare and yum. Really yum.

I am so pleased I ignored all my reservations and just went for it, something that’s so true in life generally. Often things are better than you expect, and this was exactly one of those moments.

Here’s to the jackfruit. Long may it reign.

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!

 

 

 

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!

2016-07-05 05.49.59

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.

 

 

 

 

Sugar and spice and all things nice…

Once upon a time I felt overwhelmed and a little intimidated making desserts or cakes. I think it’s because, generally, I have more of a savoury than a sweet tooth. I feel more at ease with savoury ingredients and more comfortable with their blends and with how they behave.

Lately, I’ve been cooking a few different desserts; as winter approaches my husband and I have definitely re-discovered a sweet tooth and the love of a sweet treat with a cuppa.

I have – quite by chance – stumbled upon three random recipes all of which have been absolutely sensational. All of which have been easy to cook and all of which have turned out to be delicious without any real skill on my part. In short – they are my perfect sweet treats because I can make them without any real stress about whether or not they are going to turn out like I’d hoped. I feel satisfied, now that I have these three in my repertoire – that I have an option for a dessert, an option for parties / snacks and an option for a good cake that I can roll-out if ever needs be.

2016-06-04 18.25.14First up – let’s start with the dessert for dinner parties / friends or just happy filled bellies. This is a vanilla, lemon flan.

It was supposed to be a cheesecake but I cooked it for too long. And the result was amazing. If you like the texture of a firm custard flan you’ll love this. If not so much – just cook it for a little less time than in the recipe! I cooked it for about ten minutes longer than in the link which might also have made it more of a flan than a cheesecake.

The recipe was from this wordpress site (Click here) but if you look you’ll see the results are quite different. I played with the recipe a little and put my own spin on it (mainly because when I cooked it I didn’t fancy the berry flavour).

What did I do differently?

The base:

  1. I blended up my own version which included: Half cup organic muesli, half packet ginger biscuits, Cup macadamias, half cup almond flakes, 5 dates, tablespoon maple syrup and 2 tablespoons almond nut butter. Blend all together and adjust to taste.

The filling:

  1. I forgot to buy two tubs of tofutti but did have 500gm or medium firm tofu in the fridge. So i replaced the recipes suggestion of 2 tubs cream cheese and 300 (ish) grams of tofu with 1 tub tofutti and 500gm medium firm tofu (thus the slightly firmer texture I believe).
  2. I used slightly more sugar than in the recipe and put in 1.5 cups
  3. I added in a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste on top of the essence
  4. I used cashew nut milk as my nut milk
  5. I also added half cup psyllium husk powder to the recipe to assist with the setting as I am always dubious about whether it will set! (my own personal achilles heel is things never setting like they are supposed to)

The topping:

  1. Instead of the topping in the recipe I used this amazing soyatoo whipping cream and whipped a whole carton with about half cup icing sugar, vanilla bean paste and lemon juice (to taste). It was sensational.

Thank you mungbeans for that amazing recipe! If you follow all the steps in the recipe you will definitely enjoy the fantastic flavours!

cake12-1200x750.jpgNext up – quite simply the most amazing vegan pistachio cake. This was soooooo good my husband and I baked one on the saturday, devoured it, and made another one the next day. Its insane. Kudos to this recipe. The only thing I changed was that I also added about a cup of whole pistachios into the cake mixture as I like the extra texture and flavour that they added. Recipe here.  This is the photo from the recipe page and – amazingly – it turned out to look exactly like this. How often does that happen? Not that often in my kitchen.

Finally – we come to another new fave – the good for snacks / great for easy bake super tasty vegan chocolate ginger recipe which basically works just as well as a cake OR as2016-05-29 14.02.52

brownies.You can spin it either way depending on the tin you use or the way you slice it.

The recipe – again – is super easy and quick. It takes me about ten minutes to prep this and get it in the oven.

Chocolate Ginger Cake / Brownie

  • 180g plain flour
  • 35g Cacao (or cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1/4 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
  • 225g coconut sugar
  • 112ml coconut oil
  • 225ml water
  • 2tsp vanilla extra
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • Generous handful chopped crystallised ginger
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For the topping:

  • Finely crumbled gingerbread biscuits (4-5)
  • Handful icing sugar to sprinkle

Its super easy….

  1. Pre heat the oven to 170c (using a fan oven) and grease your baking tin of choice. Line it with non stick baking paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, cacao, bicarb, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine and make a well in the middle.
  3. Separately blend (I used an immersion blender / hand stick) the oil, water and both vanillas.
  4. Add the ginger to the dry mix.
  5. Add the wet mix into the dry mix and stir gently until combined.
  6. Then – and you’ll need to be quick about this as there will be a reaction – add the vinegar into the mix and gently combine it. It will start to sort of fix and change colour.
  7. Once combined pour into your tin and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. Turn out once cooled and place on a rack to completely cool.
  9. Then sprinkle over the biscuits and icing sugar.
  10. Devour when still a little warm with a cuppa. MMMMMMmmmmm.

This is sooooooo good.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoyed making (and eating them!!!!) They were so yummy and I actually can’t wait to have a chance to cook them for someone other than myself or my husband! We might need to share these calories around a little.

Love and kilojoules ++++