Behold my delicious vegan food wizard skillz!

Tonight I turned this:

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Into this:

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Under that delicious pile of roasted tomatoes and zucchini is an equally delicious pile of wholemeal pasta with kale and walnut pesto.

Mix it all up for a hearty meal with plenty of greens and bursts of sweet roasted tomatoes and zucchini chunks, and the taste of garlic bringing it all together.

home grown ingredients:
Kale
Garlic
Zucchini
Mixed tomatoes (tiny red ones, yellow cherry, mini Roma, standard cherry – there’s a green zebra tomato in the picture but I saved that one for another dish)

store brought ingredients:
Wholemeal pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Nutritional yeast

It was quite literally thrown together – no idea about quantities. I can try and guess some if anyone really desperately needs a recipe but I’m confident there’s probably plenty of kale walnut pesto recipes to be googled and the tomatoes/zucchini were just veggies tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted.

You know what else was delicious? These babies:

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I made these cookies and cream cupcakes for a work meeting using a recipe from Vegan cupcakes take over the world . It’s the basic chocolate cake recipe with the variation of adding chopped Oreos to the cake batter and also to the vanilla buttercream. Absolutely superb.

They were a big hit with everybody. I’ve kind of made it my mission to keep feeding my work mates vegan food just to show them how delicious and interesting it is.

I’ve also found that vegan cakes seem to be ridiculously simple. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been practicing but I am really enjoying baking now.

I made this cake for a work mates farewell a few weeks ago.

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It’s a chocolate mud cake I’ve made a couple of times from Not Quite Nigella that I came across a while ago. I’ve found it turns out best when I be a bit liberal with the chocolate in the batter (75grams… 100grams… Close enough). I also take it from the tin while still warm and plate it, pouring the ganache over before it’s cool.

This recipe makes a chocolate syrup – I’ve been adding coconut milk or almond milk to make more of a ganache. Either way will be great.

Moving off the chocolate cake theme, I also tried my hand at a vegan agedashi tofu. I used shiitake for the broth and let plenty of them soak for a long time to get the flavour. I also used some wakame to get that “sea” flavour since I’m unable to buy kombu at the moment.

I kept all the wakame and shiitake in the end so it wasn’t the traditional clear broth but it was delicious and hearty. I used cornflour for the tofu coating and fried it in a mix of peanut and sunflower oils. It was dished up with edamame and plain medium grain rice.

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So there are some of my latest food achievements. I’m pretty proud of my efforts – still learning new recipes and methods of cooking and still keeping it vegan.

And by the way, what do you do with leftover Oreos and extra icing?

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Challenge accepted week 5.

So as regular readers know, I’m trying to set myself a challenge each week for the whole of 2014. They can be anything – diet or exercise related, reading books, not using Facebook for a week, etc. One friend has challenged me to go a week without buying anything with plastic, and another has set a challenge of not using my bank card, only withdrawing cash from the bank when I need it.

If you want to look at past challenge posts just click on the tag “challenge accepted”. And if you have any suggestions please comment with them. Rules are pretty basic – it has to be achievable, keep within my vegan ideals, and also it has to be practical e.g I can’t do a week long vow of silence due to work. Each week I’ll post a review of the week gone and let you know what challenge I’m doing this week.

Last weeks challenge was to make a sourdough starter and bake a loaf of bread. I started this one early to give the starter time to develop before attempting bread. It’s gone really well!

I used the River cottage method. It’s a bit wordy on the link but really it’s very simple. I think I baked my first loaf a tad too early as the sour flavour was too strong. I made the sponge on day 6. For the next loaf I fed my starter (named Tim) as normal then made the sponge on the night of day 8 and let the bread rise all of day 9. It was better tasting, and the starter was smelling more yeasty and less acid – in fact on day 9 it smelt like beer!

My second loaf was superior in taste however I made it a little too sticky and didn’t prove it in a tea towel lined dish as recommended. This meant that when I wanted to remove it, it stuck to the (floured!) bowl and I had to handle it too much which knocked some of the volume out. So it was a little more dense than it would have been.

I’ve achieved the lovely crunchy crust I wanted so I’m pretty happy. I will continue my adventures in sourdough.

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Lil’ Timmy version 2.0

so, for the week ahead… I’ve spontaneously set this weeks challenge, pushing aside another challenge because I feel I need this one more.

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Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am saying I have been watching too much Doctor Who.

I need a bit of a Doctor Detox. I finally decided to get off my butt and watch some of it and I’m four seasons down in a week and a half. There’s plenty more to go so it’s time for a break. I used to read the books multiple times when I was a kid so I’m familiar with the book Doctor, I just hadn’t seen any of the show yet (although the “geek” category on Pinterest keeps me well up to date with it… And supernatural… And Sherlock… None of which I had seen).

I would like to point out that I use my tablet all the time to watch things off my hard drive while I’m cooking or cleaning or whatever. But it’s usually things I’ve seen a gajillion times before (eg Game Of Thrones) and I can just listen – it’s background noise for me. But being that I haven’t seen this before it’s incredibly distracting and instead of washing dishes I’m standing there holding the same plate for 40 minutes.

So my challenge this week is no Doctor Who. And in fact, no TV with one exception – if Gary wants to watch a movie with me on the weekend.

Let’s see how I go!

Sourdough Tim.

So I have made a sourdough loaf.

Tim has given birth!
I’ve been using the River Cottage recipe… Closely enough anyway.

I figured my starter was 6 days old and using Gary’s superior sense of smell we determined the started was at the “yeasty” point. To me it smelt like apricots. Sometimes I have a hard time pinpointing smells. I can tell you if things smell good or bad but can’t always work out exactly what the smell is. It is supposed to start smelling “fruity and yeasty” when it’s ready so between me thinking it smells like apricots (fruit) and Gary saying bread (yeast) we thought it might be time to trial some bread.

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I moved Mr Tim to a glass jar. Firstly so I can have my mixing bowl back, and secondly because it’s interesting to be able to mark the starting point for the day and then see how much he grows by the next morning.

I started with mixing some starter and fresh flour into the “sponge” according to the recipe linked above. I used plain flour and a touch of spelt because I ran out of plain flour (whoops).

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Mr Spongy sat and bubbled away all night.

Then in the morning I brought some bread flour (higher protein than standard flour, apparently). I added this into the sponge with some oil, salt and water and kneaded it till nice and smooth.

I let the dough sit and rise.

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Then I showed the dough who was boss and punched that sucker back. I let it rise once more then the magic happened.

I put a pan in a rather hot oven, popped the bread into the hot pan and sprayed some water in the oven. 40 or so minutes later and it was done.

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It did crack near the bottom.

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And it was maybe a tiny bit more dense than I would have preferred, but certainly not too dense.

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The bread was also a little too much on the sour side but it was fantastic toasted with the lentil Spag Bol that I made last night. All in all I’m pretty happy. And tonight I’m making a start on lil’ Timmy 2.