Sushi for dinner.

What do you do when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with the stove?

Throw on your rice cooker, grab some seaweed and some bits and pieces and make this:

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the only fish involved is on the platter which came all the way from Finland. Thanks Annika!

Technically speaking these are nori rolls, not sushi but…. Sushi seems easier. I’ve been big on these lately. I made some for lunch the other day as well with some edamame and some raw veggies.

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Fun fact: in a metal container and an air conditioned office, frozen edamame in the top compartment works well – it’s defrosted by lunch but it keeps the sushi cool without getting cold. I prefer them at room temperature.

Anyhow, nori rolls are a simple thing.

You will need:
rice. Medium or short grain rice can be used – often it’s labeled as sushi rice. Just don’t use any variety of long grain rice. It won’t work.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
nori sheetsmmmm seaweed. Tasty tasty seaweed.
optional extras for the rice – I use raw nori flakes and black sesame seeds.
fillings whatever you feel like – I used carrot, cucumber, avocado, and tofu.
condiments- wasabi paste, soy sauce and pickled ginger

Step 1: cook sushi rice. I use my rice cooker now because I can pop it on while I do other things and it will just keep it warm till I’m ready. I generally have about a cup of uncooked rice to 2-3 rolls – but I like a lot of rice in my rolls.

Step 2: make your seasoning by gently heating 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp salt on the stove until it all dissolves together.

Step 3: mix the rice with the seasoning – add it to taste. The amount of seasoning generally does me about 2 cups (uncooked) rice. This is best done in a non metallic bowl. Fold some of the vinegar through the rice and taste – add more if you feel it needs it.

Step 4: extras! I tend to mix some raw nori flakes through the rice and also some black sesame seeds. Just for some extra crunch and nutrients.

Step 5: lay your nori sheet shiny side down. You can use a mat if you wish but I don’t usually bother. Lightly brush some water over the nori
Spread rice in a thin even layer, leaving a gap at one end. Use a spoon or your fingers dipped in water so it doesn’t stick.

Step 6: fillings. Spread a tiny bit of wasabi on your rice, down the middle. It’s hot so if you haven’t tried it before go very easy on it. Top that with your chosen fillings. Avocado, carrot, cucumber and tofu were my choices last night.

Step 7: roll. Take the end you have rice to and roll it tight enough to keep everything in but not so tight that it tears. You’ll get the habit of it the more you do. Wet the free end and seal your roll. Slice gently with a wet knife into whatever size you want.

Dip in soy sauce and enjoy pickled ginger in between rolls.

Enjoy!!

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Black bean, quinoa and sweet potato chili

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Sautée some onion and garlic. Add some chopped chili and cumin.

Throw in some celery, capsicum, carrot and sweet potato.

Add some canned tomato, and cooked black beans. Top it all up with a bit of water.

Throw some quinoa in there. (You know you want it.)

Let it simmer and thicken. Add salt and pepper as needed. Throw in some (vegan) Worcestershire sauce and maybe a dash of liquid smoke if you feel like it.

Serve over mashed potato and top with fresh herbs (I used oregano and parsley) and a bit of chili sauce.

Enjoy!

Two soups, both alike.

The title of my post sprung to mind in some ill fated attempt to sound poetic enough to do these recipes justice.

I have recently been desiring soup, which is maybe a result of the cooler weather anyhow I’ve made two delicious things lately that I wanted to share. They are both simple, made with good wholesome food, and absolutely delicious.

Roasted pumpkin soup with roasted pumpkin seeds

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over the years my pumpkin soup has expanded and expanded, including carrots, potato, sometimes sweet potato, and others all blended up. It became something that was no longer pumpkin soup, it was more a yummy mix of orange veggies all boiled together and then smooshed up.

This time I took it back to basics.

Oh my gosh.

I’ve never made roasted pumpkin soup before and it was amazing.

ingredients
1 butternut pumpkin (you could probably use other varieties too)
1 onion
A few cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Stock (I use a chicken flavored vegan stock powder)
Cayenne pepper (for the seeds)
Nutmeg (for the soup)
Salt and pepper.

cayenne pepper could be replaced by whatever you want to roast the seeds with. And for a different flavor, you could go paprika or cayenne in the soup

method
Heat oven to approx 180 degrees. That’s what it’s probably supposed to be. I put mine on 200 cos I’m a rebel.

Chop the pumpkin in half lengthways. I had to chop mine into halves across first so I ended up with quarters. If yours is small you won’t need to do this

Scoop out the seed section with a spoon. Don’t discard.

Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place cut side down on a tray or in a roasting pan and throw it in the oven.

Meanwhile chop your onions and garlic. It doesn’t have to be exact because it will all be blended or whizzed later anyway.

Seperate the seeds from the membrane and wash them. Boil them in strongly salted water for 10 minutes then drain and dry thoroughly. This step makes the outer shell more edible.

Let the pumpkin bake until it is tender through (metal skewers are so handy in my kitchen!!) remove from oven and let cool till you can handle it. Turn the oven down to 180 if you had it up high before like I did.

Meanwhile take your washed and dried seeds, coat lightly in a little olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Spread them out in a single layer on a tray and roast them in the oven. They shouldn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes. Check then regularly. If they start popping and jumping all over your oven, they’re done and need to be removed from the oven.

Scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the skin.

Sautéed the onion and garlic until it starts to caramelise then dump the pumpkin flesh in. Top with enough stock to allow it to blend (I used my stick mixer, but a blender would work too. Or just smoosh it with a spoon and have chunky soup.

Season with some salt and pepper, add some nutmeg to taste, and serve topped with the toasted seeds.

Tell me that’s not amazing.

And now for my next trick….

potato, butter bean, and sweet corn soup

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This was inspired by the corn we harvested from the garden. Our first ears off the current crop…. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted corn so delicious! It was juicy and sweet and oh so good we started eating it raw and it nearly didn’t make it to the kitchen. Delicious fresh corn like that shouldn’t be boiled for too long, so I threw it in for the last minute or so just to heat through. If you have older corn (from a supermarket) or a can of corn you can let it cook longer.

ingredients

Potatoes
3 ears of corn (or is it cobs? Are those words interchangeable for corn?)
OR 1-2 cans of corn kernels.
Chili peppers, fresh or dried, to taste
Olive oil
Spring Onion
Garlic
Celery
Stock – I used chicken flavored vegan stock again.
A can of butter beans.
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

optional extras
I also threw in some chopped runner beans that were ready in the garden – anything that is solid like carrots or even capsicum could also be thrown in. I would do this at the onion/garlic stage. The beans went in later because I wanted them to be crunchy. Be creative!!!

method
Chop spring onion and garlic, and slice the celery.

Prepare potatoes by cutting them into 1cm ish cubes. I usually leave the skins on my potatoes jf they are clean enough but you can peel them if you want.

Also get 3-4 cups of stock ready

Throw the spring onions, garlic, chopped chili and celery into a pot with some olive oil and cook until translucent. Add the potatoes and sweat for a minute or so. Add the stock to cover, and allow to boil until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, if using fresh cobs/ears/whatever, use a knife to slice the kernels off. Collect them in a bowl and save until the last few minutes.

This is the point where I threw in the green beans and the butter beans (drained)

When everything is nearly ready, throw in the corn kernels and some chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want to go wild, throw in a splash of soy sauce – but definitely be careful you don’t overdo it.

Serve with some nice crusty bread and enjoy.

Speaking of delicious bread, I’m pretty sure this has some sort of addictive drug in it.

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It’s a pumpkin sourdough, made from my new best friend’s bakery. I say best friend because of this bread. It has a nice thick crust, but its light and soft inside. There’s pepitas through it, and its made old school style with no sugars or additives. The pumpkin gives it a slight sweetness and the sourdough taste underlines all of that awesomeness. We went through two loaves in two days. I’ve had to force myself not to go back yet because if I did I would eat this all day every day.

it is just that good.

Vegan deliciousness.

I’ve found our options a little limited this weekend, with three meals being eaten out with friends and/or family. On Saturday we had my sister’s birthday lunch, and pretty much our only choice on the menu was felafel wraps minus the tzatziki (is that how you spell it?).

Saturday night my brother Scott and my sister in law Lotta came round and we wandered down to the Wodonga Carnivale to see what there was to see. Needless to say pretty much all the foot stalls were sausages… Or pizzas… Or some variation of meat and cheese. So we headed down to the Thai restaurant where you can order a vegan version of most things. Pad Thai with ended up being the go for the night.

Sunday lunch was the biggest challenge, with the only vegetarian meal at the place we went being a very cheesy premade veggie lasagne. So we asked for a plate of veggies and some chips, and that got is by.

I think there’s a pretty good range of vegetarian around, but not so much vegan. There’s a place near our house that has some great meals you can veganise though so I think it’s a matter of picking where we eat. Thai and Indian also offer a great selection.

Anyhow, at lunch Sunday some of the guys has chocolate mousse, which i instantly had a craving for. So I took up the challenge and googled a few recipes. I made my own version from a compilation of a few, so here’s what I ended up with. It’s a base to work off. Gary loved it, but I want to try a few variations next time, maybe with a pinch of chili powder as I love chili and chocolate. I also think I should have put a touch if salt in it.

Delicious vegan dark chocolate avocado mousse

ingredients
2 ripe avocados
200 gms dark non-dairy chocolate
2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp sweetener of choice (I used agave syrup)
1tsp vanilla extract.

method

In a microwave or double boiler, melt chocolate, coconut oil, sweetener, and vanilla.

Scoop avocado flesh into a blender or food processor (if its still a bit firm maybe mash it a little before putting it in the blender)

Pour in melted chocolate mix and blend or process till smooth.

It can be served immediately or chilled first.

I topped mine with crushed walnuts. Gary reckons its the best ever mousse, but I want to do a bit of experimenting. I think this would go well with the afore mentioned chilli. Other options might be cinnamon or nutmeg, or berries mixed through. Anything you’d do with normal mousse really.

If anyone has suggestions, let me know!

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edit, because people need to know this.

I had some leftover in the fridge the day after it was made. It’s so good fresh, even better chilled. When chilled it gets firmer, and the faint avocado taste is nearly gone. The second time round I dished up a few spoonfuls with some fresh raspberries and some organic cacao nibs. Tasty!!

summer’s leftovers – salt preserved basil

Last night I cooked Spaghetti Bolognese and I used some of our own produce to do so. A massive spring onion – nice strong flavour but a little woody at the base due to age – and fresh parsley were thrown in. I have used all my jars of tomatoes and pasta sauce which I made from last summer’s crop, so I had to use supermarket tomatoes.

Since no Spaghetti Bolognese is complete withough delicious basil, and I have no fresh basil available (due to it only just being spring), I used the last of a jar of salt preserved basil. As you can see from the photo above, salt preserved basil looks a little different to the fresh basil.

But here’s the thing – dried basil tends to lose its flavour. This one, while it loses some of the flavour, still tastes like basil. I can’t vouch for the science of it, but here’s my best guess: Drying basil lets out all the essential oils – and that’s what carries the flavour. Salting basil draws only the water out of the leaf, leaving the oils. This means a few big jars of salted basil can give you tasty (although no so attractive) basil supplies for the winter months, as there is no moisture in which bacteria can grow. If anyone is concerned about how food safe this is, please conduct your own research before embarking, as I am by no means an expert on the subject. I am happy with my thoughts on the matter and consider the risk well worth the almost fresh taste of basil in winter.

I wouldn’t use it in a pesto – thats why I crushed basil at the end of summer and froze it at various stages of becoming pesto to see which stage is the best to freeze it at (turns out parmesan cheese doesn’t go so well in the freezer).

To salt basil, it’s as simple as putting a layer of salt in the base of washed and dried glass jar, then layering your clean and dry basil – with no two pieces touching – between layers of salt. Pop a lid on it and keep it in your pantry – or a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Over the next few days the salt will draw the moisture out of the leaves. As you chip out the salt later to get the leaves, put it into a shallow bowl or dish and let it dry out – it can then be reused and will not carry any basil flavour. I made up one jar using rock salt, and the rest were using normal salt. While the rock salt looks pretty awesome, it can be a bit difficult/annoying to have to chip out lumps of salt to get your basil out. I’d advise personal discretion be used with that one!

In using the basil, there is usually a bit of salt clinging to the leaves as you bring them out. There’s two choices here – if it’s a recipe that requires salt, throw in the leaves with the salt attached and reduce or omit the salt itself. If you don’t want the salt, it’s a simple matter to brush it off or wash the leaves.

Ding! Level up!

Ok so on occasion I declare myself to be a “food wizard.” Generally I consider myself at least a level 10. Yesterday I believe I leveled up. (Yes I play Dungeons and Dragons and regularly refer to it in my everyday life. For anyone who knows me well this should not come as a shock). 

 

I made my own pasta! Now this may seem like a small task, but it was the first time I have made it, and it was perfect. I used this recipe which I googled (because Google knows everything). The only change I made was I used 4 eggs. When I started making the dough it seemed a little too dry, so I cracked another egg straight onto it, creating a huge mess which eventually came together. I think I might have kneaded the dough for about 12 mins or so until it got all nice and elasticy. Yes I think I just made up a word. No I’m not going to apologise for that. 

Honestly the most difficult thing was rolling it through the pasta machine, because it takes 1 hand to feed the dough in, 1 to catch it, and 1 to turn it. 

I don’t have that many hands.

Somehow, however, I managed and hung it up to dry over my giant cooking chopsticks balanced over my big stockpot, as well as some hung off a clean coat hanger because I was running out of space. 

I whipped up a bit of a carbonara sauce, using evaporated milk and eggs. I cooked some bacon, mushrooms, and chopped asparagus, heated the sauce, and tossed that all together to warm the sauce through (with a good sprinkle of cracked pepper and a dash of chili flakes) while the pasta cooked. Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes to cook – I reckon it was about 5 minutes for mine (fettucini cut) 

then the pasta went into the bowls, topped with the sauce, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

It was pretty good. I’ll make sure to take decent photos next time and do a proper post about it, but for the time being you’ll have to make do with imagining me with an apron getting my hands stuck into a pile of flour and eggs on a kitchen bench. 

 

Ding! level 11. Acquired new spell: Summon Greater Pasta. Earn Feat: extra hand.  

My sickness cures: Game of thrones, lemonade, and chicken soup recipe

Today I stayed home from work because I am sick, I’ve been a little run down lately and every now and then I seem to need day dedicated to doing nothing at all to make my body catch up.

So I thought I might do a short post on what makes me feel better when I am sick.

Today I wanted three things:
1) Game of Thrones
2) mostly flat lemonade
3) chicken and veggie soup.

Let me explain.

1) Game of Thrones: What could be a better way to rest than passing out on the couch watching this epic brutal fantasy? I have seen season one, by the way, and am up to season 2. I won’t put spoilers here but man this show delivers. And Arya stark, I’m keeping my eye on you. You are my potential new favorite.

2) Mostly flat lemonade: I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect from my childhood, but whenever we had upset stomachs mum gave us mostly flat lemonade. That has turned into honey/lemon tea as an adult, but today I had huge cravings for actual lemonade. Soda water (made with our new soda stream, purchased with the direct intention of dealing with my fizz addiction without all the added sugars etc, of softdrink) and a slice of lemon just didn’t cut it. So I caved and brought a bottle of lemonade. And it made me feel better.

3) Chicken and veggie soup: Chicken soup makes everyone feel better when they are sick. When I’m unwell I make it with tonnes of Garlic, Ginger, lemongrass and chili because they really help boost your immune system, they clear your throat and they also taste awesome. I was home alone today so I made the soup myself, in between dozing on the couch and listening/sleeping to The IT Crowd season 2. Best thing about chicken soup is that you can let it simmer away for ages and it only gets better.

Recipe is as follows (makes a large batch – I made this in my 10 litre stockpot):

Ingredients are in Bold.

1 – wash a whole chicken (or pieces, whatever you prefer). Boil it in enough water to cover, then a bit more. Boil it for an hour or so, until cooked through and the meat is falling off the bone. Drain it, reserving the water to add back in to the soup. I then ran the cold tap over the chicken to make pulling it apart easier.

2 – while the chicken is cooking, chop your veggies. I tend to use the following: 1 Leek, 1 Swede, 1 parsnip, a few carrots (i used 3 today) and 3 or 4 stalks of celery. I was also going to put broccoli in but I forgot about it. I also sliced up about a quarter of a cabbage to see how that worked. You can put pretty much anything you want in, But i’d avoid mushrooms or tomato because I don’t think the texture would work that well.

See all the yummy goodness?

3) Chop/mince some garlic, finely grate a piece of ginger, and finely grate a stick of lemongrass. I used about a whole head of garlic, 2-3 cm piece of ginger, and a large stem of lemongrass for this batch. It’s a matter of personal taste really. I would also normally put fresh Chili in, but being winter I had to rely on my dried and flaked superhot chili that we grew in summer. I put maybe 2 teaspoons of that in. It’s hard to tell exactly how much, and again Chili and experience of “hotness” varies so go with the personal taste option.

this chopping board smells awesome.

4) put the chicken water back into the pot with the veggies. Time to throw in some “soup mix” dried beans. It’s a mix of a bunch of different beans and split peas. I feel like I didn’t have enough in this one. I then also topped it up with a little hot water and powdered chicken stock, Just enough to give everything room to move.

5) Get into the chicken with your hands and pick all the meat off the bones. Toss the carcass, as it’s already made the stock for you. Chop up the meat and throw it back in. Add some salt and pepper, and let simmer for as long as you like – the beans take about an hour without prior soaking.

6) Extras: I added a generous splash of soy sauce near the end, and a few torn coriander leaves when I dished it up. I’m also eating it with fresh bread from the bakery.

Also, the soup mix is found with the dried beans in the supermarket.

yum. Here’s hoping my sick stomach doesn’t reject it!